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Matinee: 'Hiroshi Sugimoto: Between Sea and Sky' Share This on LinkedIn   Share This on Google   Tweet This   Forward This

15 September 2018

Saturday matinees long ago let us escape from the ordinary world to the island of the Swiss Family Robinson or the mutinous decks of the Bounty. Why not, we thought, escape the usual fare here with Saturday matinees of our favorite photography films?

So we're pleased to present the 167th in our series of Saturday matinees today: Hiroshi Sugimoto: Between Sea and Sky. The interview, produced by the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, was conducted by Haruko Hoyle at the Enoura Observatory in Odawara, Japan, in June.

The farthest you can see on earth, Japanese photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto says in this 13 minute interview, is the sea horizon. It gives your eyes and body a good feeling, he adds.

Seascapes are immutable. They are the only landscapes, he reasons, we can look upon as the ancients did. And they can therefore return us to "our innocent minds."

He photographs them with the horizon in the middle, half sea, half sky. It's his method, the way he started and the way he has continued, he explains.

But they are devilishly difficult to process. It's hard to get even development on large film. So he spent 10 years coming up with a development process to guarantee even processing on large film.

He spent 10 years coming up with a development process to guarantee even processing on large film.

And the results, mixed in with the interview, are stunning conceptual art that has won him praise and prestige. He is the recipient of the 2001 Hasselblad Foundation International Award in Photography, the 2009 Praemium Imperiale Award for Painting and The 2017 Royal Photographic Society Centenary Medal.

His work is in the collections of the Art Institute of Chicago, The Museum of Modern Art in New York, the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. and the Center for Contemporary Art in Kitakyushu in Japan.

But his story all began, he says at the very beginning of the interview, with his first memory.

It was of the sea horizon he saw coming out of a tunnel on a family vacation when he was about five years old. It was a revelation. "I am here and I exist," he remembers the sensation that hit him. Since then, he has remembered everything.

That includes his first camera.

It was actually his father's. His father, he tells us, was a guy who always bought the latest gadgets. So he bought an expensive Mamiya that used 120 roll film. Sugimoto calls it a Mamiya 6 but that model wasn't introduced until 1989 and this happened in 1960 when Sugimoto was 12. It may have been a Mamiya Press, which was introduced in 1960.

In any case, it was too difficult for his father to learn so he inherited it. And mastered it. He even built a darkroom in his closet.

And so he became a photographer.

You can hear more from Sugimoto in SFMOMA Exhibits Japanese Postwar Photography, where he talks the development of his career in English from his flower child days to his pursuit of Modernism in New York.

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