In the long-exposure images he has made over the last 30 years, Hiroshi Sugimoto has used the fundamental elements of photography—time and light—to create meditative works that hint at something transcendent. Seascapes, a new book published by Damiani, collects all 200 of the master photographer’s studies of ocean surfaces. He created them on a large-format camera by keeping his shutter open for anywhere from several seconds to several minutes. Rather than capturing a decisive moment, Sugimoto captures a long period of time in the life of a timeless subject. To make the photos, Sugimoto traveled around the Pacific, the Atlantic, the Sea of Japan, the Ligurian Sea and other seas, but there is little to differentiate the site of one image from another. The horizon line bifurcates each image at the same point, and the waves appear calm. The similarity of the compositions draws the reader’s attention to the subtle differences in the swirl of waves or the trace of clouds or islands in the distance. The sky and sea in the images, like the bands of color in paintings by Mark Rothko, seem to subtly vibrate. Like listening to waves hitting the shore or staring towards a distant horizon, gazing at Sugimoto’s seascapes inspires thoughts on time and infinity.
Seascapes is the second in Damiani’s series on Sugimoto’s work, produced in collaboration with Matsumoto Editions. The first, Dioramas, featured all of Sugimoto’s studies of dioramas in natural history museums, which use taxidermied animals to depict a moment from the past. Together the two volumes present an in-depth look at Sugimoto’s examination of time. —Holly Stuart Hughes