“My day off? My life is just one long day off”
I recently had the great pleasure of interviewing one of my all-time favorite photographers and artists, Hiroshi Sugimoto. Thought I would share it with you.
Hiroshi Sugimoto is one of the world’s most revered photographers. The Tokyo-born, New York-based artist is renowned for his technical proficiency and the thought-provoking conceptual and philosophical messages behind his images. He has produced bodies of work spanning over four decades. Most notable among them is a series showing the interiors of movie theaters, where each photo is exposed for the entire duration of the film being shown. In another, titled Seascapes, the exposure times are even longer, defying the common perception that the only way to capture the world on film is via time-frozen snap-shots. He has won numerous awards and accolades, including the Hasselblad Foundation International Award in Photography in 2001. He is also a respected architect and producer of traditional Japanese theater, and in 2011 will appear in a film directed by Anne Fontaine.
What kind of upbringing did you have?
I’m originally from downtown Tokyo. My father ran the family pharmaceuticals business and I was the eldest son so naturally I was expected to take it over. But my university years spanned 1966 to 1970, which was right at the height of Japan’s student movement. Naturally I got involved.
I went to what was basically a Christian university, but it was like a center for Marxist learning. My university economics department was one of the few places that accepted allegedly Communist university professors who lost their jobs during the late 1940s and early ’50s during the so-called “red purge.”
I was just 18 and to study those basic Western philosophies, Marx, Bauer and Feuerbarch and so on, you can’t help but be influenced somewhat. I wasn’t ultra Leftist or anything, but I went to demonstrations and considered myself to have been a kind of activist. But my father thought I was too wayward to take over the business and decided my younger brother would be a more appropriate option.
Which was fine by me. It left me free to do whatever I wanted. At that time I was curious about the hippy movement. So I left Japan to tour the world.