Interview: Hiroshi Sugimoto

  • The List
  • 16 August 2011

This article is from 2011.

Hiroshi Sugimoto

Renowned photographer on his EAF exhibition

Is this your first visit to Edinburgh?
I did pass through here once in the late 90s. I was shooting seascapes around the Scottish coast. Which wasn’t so successful: mostly, I saw many oil towers, so I couldn’t get clear seascapes. I thought it was a Shakespearian, mysterious sea – but well, there’s the oil!

Do you feel your lightning pictures [inspired by the techniques of the 19th century photographer, Henry Fox Talbot], are more of a scientific experiment rather than just art?
Well, science and art have the same origin. So I am going back to the origin … like a Renaissance time, and Talbot was in the middle of this chaotic period of science and art. So, this study of static electricity that Talbot was involved in … I decided to keep it up. If Talbot had lived longer then this is something that he would have done.

How do you see yourself in relation to Fox Talbot?
He is my most influential figure … he was the inventor of photography, so there’s the highest respect to pay to him. The lightning field practice is partially learned from Talbot’s study of electricity with Michael Faraday. I didn’t know that he was a serious scientist, I just knew Talbot as the inventor of photography. But he was also scientist, an anthropologist, a philosopher, a mathematician …

What are you working on at the moment?
Ah many, many different things! Besides photography, I am working with architects. I established my own architecture firm so I have just finished one museum building in Japan, and one in Marrakesh, and then also a theatre production! This month in Japan I have a very big production at the national puppet theatre. I produced and designed the stage and composed the music. So the photography is less ‘now’. I still keep practising but my curiosities have so much expanded.

Much like Talbot?
Yes. And also maybe I will continue studying the electricity sparks, and then I may find some new theory of how life started on planet Earth and then be a Nobel prize winner (laughs).

Hiroshi Sugimoto, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, 624 6200, £7 (£5).

Hiroshi Sugimoto

  • 4 stars

The EIF's major exhibition this year is curated by Simon Groom and consists of work from two of Japanese photographer Sugimoto's most poetic and abstract series, Lightning Fields and Photogenic Drawings. Many of these vast and detailed images were created by using a Van der Graaff generator to induce an electrical charge…

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