Hiroshi Sugimoto

Biography of Hiroshi Sugimoto

Hiroshi Sugimoto is one of the standout photographers of our time, his eerily intense and uncanny images, have made him into one of contemporary art’s most collected photographers. He is perhaps most identified with his bleak and often beautiful black and white photographs, that are distinctly Japanese and often possess a meditative aura.


Born in Tokyo, Japan in 1948, Hiroshi Sugimoto studied sociology and politics at St. Paul’s University in Tokyo before moving to Los Angeles in 1970 to study art. By 1974 he had moved to New York, and supported his art practice by dealing in Japanese antiquities. Around this time, he began working on his first serious body of work, Dioramas, 1976.  This ground-breaking series brought to life the Dioramas he came across at the American Museum of Natural History, in New York. With his immense technical skill, Sugimoto managed to blur the line between fake and real, imbuing the images, often featuring Neolithic figures or animals, with a sense of authenticity.


As much as a philosopher as a photographer, Hiroshi Sugimoto has written about his work being like “time exposed”, as he leaves the exposure open to burn the image onto the film, turning his images into a kind of time capsule. The strange conflict between life and death and the transience of life itself, are very much subjects focused on by the artist.


In 1995 and with his reputation firmly established, Hiroshi Sugimoto had a large exhibition of 120 photographs at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. A couple of years later he got the prestigious commission from the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago to photograph well-known buildings from around the world, exhibiting them in the museum in 2003.


Few people are aware that Hiroshi Sugimoto is also an accomplished architect. Although he is not certified, he has a team of qualified architects to turn his designs into reality. In 2009 the mega-group, U2, used his image of Boden Sea, Uttwil, 1993 for the cover of their album No Line on the Horizon, 2009. No money exchanged hands, and in exchange for the image U2 allowed Sugimoto to use a song for an art project of his own.


In 2001 Hiroshi Sugimoto was awarded the Hasselblad Foundation International Award in Photography which was accompanied by a retrospective of his work at the Hasselblad Center in Gothenburg in Sweden. He has exhibited around the world including at the Deutsche Guggenheim Museum in Berlin, the Serpentine Gallery, London and the Mori Art Museum in Tokyo. He features in most major art collections worldwide, including the Centre Pompidou in Paris, the National Gallery, London, and Moderna Museet in Stockholm. In 2009 he was awarded Japan’s Praemium Imperiale prize for his contribution to art. 

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