It’s his finding beauty and fascination in the objects and spaces we take for granted that make for spellbinding large-scale photography – almost always in his trademark black and white. Vultures feed on a carcass and a polar bear approaches a seal, but they seem rather still and that’s because they are from those Victorian-style dioramas that still exist in natural history museums. They carry a nostalgia of childhood museum visits for many of us, and there’s a great symmetry in using the older technology of a large-format camera to capture these scenes that many would classify as outdated in a day of cutting-edge nature documentaries.
He’s best known for his seascapes, where the image is split in half between the sky and sea with no objects to break the perfect boundary, and they shimmer in these silver gelatin prints, and viewers can get lost in their harmony and beauty.
Not every series here has the same level of impact: his out-of-focus Modernist buildings, ranging from the Eiffel Tower to the Brooklyn Bridge don’t resonate as strongly and neither do his images of one intense colour.
However, in most cases these works resonate strongly as he photographs waxworks of famous figures from Napoleon to the late Queen Elizabeth II from Madame Tussauds – and it highlights this strange coming-together of kitsch and nobility.
Throughout the show it feels as if it’s not just the subject but the very act of creating an image that Sugimoto is drawn to as he creates ‘lightning strikes’ by passing 400,000 volts of electricity across a sheet of unexposed film or by photographing simple geometric shapes and blowing them up to a large scale.
There are beautiful photographs that reward long meditative looks throughout this exhibition, but what elevates Sugimoto’s work is how he challenges us to see and interpret the world around us by pointing his lens at the things we don’t stop to think about – though probably should.
|What||Hiroshi Sugimoto, Hayward Gallery, review|
|Where||Hayward Gallery, Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road, London, SE1 8XX | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Waterloo (underground)|
11 Oct 23 – 07 Jan 24, 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM
|Website||Click here for more information and to book|