Author(s): Hiroshi Sugimoto (Photographer, Text by)
Hiroshi Sugimoto (born 1948) began his four-decade-long series Dioramas in 1974, inspired by a trip to the American Museum of Natural History in New York. Surrounded by the museum's elaborate, naturalistic dioramas, Sugimoto realized that the scenes jumped to life when looked at with one eye closed. Recreated forestry and stretches of uninhabited land, wild, crouching animals against painted backgrounds and even prehistoric humans seemed entirely convincing with this visual trick, which launched a conceptual exploration of the photographic medium that has traversed his entire career. Focusing his camera on individual dioramas as though they were entirely surrounding scenes, omitting their frames and educational materials and ensuring that no reflections enter the shot, his subjects appear as if photographed in their natural habitats. He also explores the power of photography to create history--in his own words, "photography functions as a fossilization of time." Hiroshi Sugimoto: Dioramas narrates a story of the cycle of life, death and rebirth, from prehistoric aquatic life to the propagation of reptile and animal life to Homo sapiens' destruction of the earth, circling back to its renewal, where flora and fauna flourish without man. Here Sugimoto writes his own history of the world, an artist's creation myth.
Hiroshi Sugimoto was born and raised in Tokyo, Japan, where he studied politics and sociology at Rikky University, later retraining as an artist at the Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles, CA. He currently lives in New York and Tokyo.
The Japanese photographer's enormous black-and-white landscapes were made between 1976 and 2012 at natural-history museums. Their subjects are dioramas, displaying taxidermy animals and fake foliage against painted backdrops-dense layers of artifice, to which Sugimoto's photographs add yet another layer. Like so much of the artist's work, this series is conceptually brilliant, formally impressive, and ice cold. Which might be the point: we're so alienated from nature that even the dioramas staged to involve us in animal drama (warthog vs. ostrich, polar bear vs. seal) come off as empty, if elaborate, tableaux.--Andrea K. Scott"The New Yorker" (06/02/2014)
Born in Tokyo in 1948, Sugimoto left Japan in 1970 after graduating fromRikkyo University with a degree in economics. He traveled throughoutthe Soviet Union and Europe and then moved to Los Angeles, wherehe studied photography at the Art Center College of Design. His workhas been exhibited internationally in group and solo shows, and hewas the recipient of the Hasselblad Foundation International Award inPhotography in 2001 and the Mainichi Art Prize in 1988. He currently livesin New York and Tokyo.