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North Pacific Ocean, Mount Tamalpais
Black and white photograph
Dimensions: 42 x 54.2 cm
Sugimoto's photographic work has evolved over more than two decades from a very limited number of series. There are three main ones: "Dioramas", "Theaters" and "Seascapes". The first consists of images taken in natural science museums (notably the American Museum of Natural History in New York) and waxworks (notably Madame Tussaud's in London). The second includes a repertoire of cinemas and drive-ins in the United States, and the third covers seascapes in different parts of the world. Sugimoto began his series "Seascapes" in Jamaica in 1980. At first sight the images suggest two readings, one distant, the other close. The first reading consists of seeing the photographs as abstract surfaces, composed of two horizontal strips that correspond to the sea and the sky. The set of images, the series, thus seems to be a repetition of the same composition pattern, so that they all look the same or the changes are purely in tones or shades of grey. A second reading reveals the differences and links the seascapes with the Romantic tradition of the sublime landscape. The frames of the photographs cover a very wide field, which heightens the feeling of distance and the boundlessness of the sea. Those two simultaneous readings are possible due to the great similarity in composition of the images and the wealth of detail of the photographic register. The images are almost identical, but the titles reveal that they are taken in different, distant places. With this series, Sugimoto becomes a tourist who travels the world but always finds the same image. In that way his photographs seem as mindful of the stereotype as the singularity of things and therefore reflect the distance between image and reality. In the most recent works in the series, fog appears, blurring the image in such a way that precision of detail is sacrificed to a suggestive, atmospheric imprecision.
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