Hiroshi Sugimoto: Stop Time

Image of Hiroshi Sugimoto: Stop Time
Release Date: 
October 12, 2015
Reviewed by: 

Fine art photography is driven by concepts. It may be the idea of photographing self-portraits as fictitious selves (Cindy Sherman), or a fascination with environmental light (Joel Meyerowitz, Cape Light), or the inhabitants of a particular neighborhood (Arlene Gottfried, Bacalaitos & Fireworks). For Hiroshi Sugimoto it is the fascination with time, trompe l’oiel, Modernism, and architecture. And all of those fascinations are represented in his book Hiroshi Sugimoto: Stop Time.

The book was printed to accompany Sugimoto’s exhibition which was organized by the Fondazione Fotografia Modena, in Modena, Italy, and published by Rizzoli. It is lavish in its presentation of Sugimoto’s photographic work and even more so, his underlying concepts and motivation.

It contains many of his series on Theaters, Lightning Fields, Portraits taken of the Madame Tussaud’s exhibits and museum Dioramas. It also includes a series titled Photogenic Drawings, in which he created new positives from the never printed negatives taken by William Henry Fox Talbot in 1839.

Nearly one-third of the book is devoted to explaining Sugimoto’s philosophical concepts and fascination with time, both through his own essay, “Stop Time,” and essays by curator Filippo Maggia and Luca Molinari. In it Sugimoto states that “Modernism greatly transformed our lives, liberating the human spirit from untold decoration,” and “for almost 180 years, it is photography that has determined how mankind sees its own history and perceives the world. Our collective history has been stopped, saved, and repeatedly scrutinized to the point of banalization. History, one might say, is not truly history until photography has thoroughly trivialized it.”

The book is elegantly printed in both English and Italian. The heavyweight paper is of such a luxurious quality that in leafing through the book one often thinks of turning two pages when in fact it is only one. The blue on black hardcover has the subtle colorations of a Whistler painting. It is actually an image recorded by Talbot, one of Sugimoto’s heroes. 

Sugimoto is very craft oriented and works with either 4x5 inch or 8x10 inch film view cameras. He is a traditionalist who eschews digital technology and views photography as the means to fossilize time. While Sugimoto’s concepts of “investigation of the past and the need to depict a particular time by embodying it in photography” are intriguing, they are also highly illusive. But for those thoroughly acquainted with Sugimoto’s work and for lovers of his image making philosophy, this book is a must have.