Books / Reviews

'Hiroshi Sugimoto: Black Box' ponders representations of representations

by John Tran

“Black Box” is the most recent publication of works by Japanese photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto. It spans the entirety of his artistic career, from the natural history “Dioramas” of the 1970s to his recent “Lightning Fields” series. It also includes a wide-ranging discussion between Sugimoto and curator Philip Larratt-Smith.

Hiroshi Sugimoto: Black Box, by Hiroshi Sugimoto and Philip Larratt-Smith
204 pages
Aperture & Fundacion Mapfre, Photo Book.

The publication is beautifully produced and reaffirms Sugimoto’s central role in helping to make photography a key medium of art in the latter part of the 20th century, both in turns of redefining what “art” means, and developing the aesthetic reading of the photographic image.

Good-quality reproduction is crucial to understanding Sugimoto’s work; not just for communicating his commitment to process, but also because it is through the extreme and uncanny detail of his work that Sugimoto became one of the heralds of the hyperreal. The publishers have managed to convey this quality at a very reasonable price.

Larratt-Smith’s introduction and questions cast a revealing light on Sugimoto’s work by putting it in a psychoanalytical framework, probing the artist’s personal history for context.

Text occupies almost as many pages as the images, and through this interplay a fascinating contrast emerges between the artist, the human being and the art. Despite, not because of, Sugimoto’s weighty reputation, the book has its own particular vitality and creative tension.

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