Mystery of mysteries: water and air are right there before us in the sea. Every time I see the sea, I feel a calming sense of security, as if visiting my ancestral home; I embark on a voyage of seeing... www.sugimotohiroshi.com
In an autobiographical text, Hiroshi Sugimoto recounts a conversation he had with his tutor and friend Yamada, in the last years of his primary education. They were observing the skeleton of a squirrel that Yamada had just put back together, while explaining to him that humans are the result of evolution from animals like this. “You mean that if I go back to my great-grandparents’ great-grandparents’ great-grandparents... I’d end up at a squirrel?” asked Sugimoto. “Well, something like that,” answered Yamada. “Okay... and if we went back to the squirrel’s great-grandparents’ great-grandparents, where would we end up?” “... in the sea”.
Many years later, in 1980, Sugimoto wondered about the possibility of recovering a scene in the modern world that had remained intact, the same as our ancestors would have seen it millions of years ago. The images that came to his mind were of Mount Fuji and the Nachi Falls. He imagined two large mountains, Mount Fuji and Mount Hakone, just before its peak collapsed to create the Ashinoko Crater Lake. What a wonderful view it must have been! Unfortunately, the topography has changed since then. Whereas the land has changed continually, the sea is impassive. Thus began my voyages in time, to the world’s old seas. www.da-digital.com
Perhaps we should go back to the 1960s, when Bernd and Hilla Becher brought about a new way of understanding photography and safeguarding the historical memory of their era by documenting and cataloguing industrial buildings and objects that were beginning to disappear. It is essential to understand the concepts of seriation and repetition to understand Sugimoto’s work, but unlike his predecessors, for him objectively documenting different scenes from reality is of secondary importance, behind the reflective exercise of observation, attention, perception and experience. The various photographs taken over 30 years and from various parts of the planet share common compositional qualities (balanced framing that features fifty per cent water and fifty per cent air, separated by the horizon), technically all treated in the same way (daguerreotype), developed in black and white, and also work as tesserae that form a whole, where tranquillity prevails. However, they are not just photographs of the sea; they are images that make us reflect on the origin of the Earth, collective memory and our own existence, helping us to consider the relativity of time and its illusory component; they speak to us of the present eternity.




La Caixa Foundation and Cultural Centre of Belém. Sugimoto, Hiroshi. 1998. Time Exposed. Kyoto Shoin Intl. (Tokyo). 1991.


photography.(serie seascapes (1980-2002)).