Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Hiroshi Sugimoto theatre photographs

I've been photographing historic movie theatres for a long time. I'm drawn to the architecture, the colors, the glowing neon marquees and the sadness of an empty, unused theatre. I've been compiling photos of run down, abandoned theatres for a project I've dubbed "Dead Cinema" (some of these might appear on Blevins Fotografic from time to time). I have taken interior photographs, but the bulk of what I've done has been exteriors due mainly to the fact that I've been unable to go inside if I'm just driving around towns and cities hunting for that marquee that pulls me in like a magnet.

Recently I stumbled across the work of Japanese photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto and have been blown away by his large-format, extremely long exposures that capture an entire movie in a single frame. The expertise to be able to craft these long exposures on 8x10 cameras, as Sugimoto does, is the work of a master technician in complete control of his craft. Folks, if you are a digital photography person, bow down and admit the error of your ways, as these remarkable images could only be made by someone working within the world of film.

Sugimoto, born in 1948 in Tokyo--we actually share February 23rd as a birthday,  has been taking movie theatre photographs since 1978 and they range from famous palaces, lesser known palaces, regular theatres and even the drive-ins that dot the American landscape. How it works for Sugimoto is he sets up his camera, prepares and formulates light, space and the room, opens the shutter and records the entire film in a single frame. What is left is a magical, glowing white screen and every small detail of the theatre/drive-in captured. There are no people which leaves an eerie, surreal element to the images. It's as if time has forgotten to exist in these Sugimoto photographs.

Here's Sugimoto describing where the idea for the photographs came from.

One night I had an idea while I was at the movies: to photograph the film itself. I tried to imagine photographing an entire feature film with my camera. I could already picture the projection screen making itself visible as a white rectangle. In my imagination, this would appear as a glowing, white rectangle; it would come forward from the projection surface and illuminate the entire theater. This idea struck me as being very interesting, mysterious, and even religious. [Time Exposed, 1995]
I've been looking at a bunch of these images online, but it's not enough, I want to be able to see prints, up close and personal, to soak in all the minute details captured in these images. Since they are drawn from large-format cameras I can only dream about the details a giant print would unveil.

All images on this post are by Hiroshi Sugimoto.


Anonymous said...


the hidden staircase said...

love the b/w...openess...emptiness...light...streaks through sky with the long exposures...! stunning!

Joshua Blevins Peck said...

Come to find out SJ met Sugimoto in Chicago a few years ago when he came to the MCA.

I'm really in awe of these photos and wanted to post about 20 of them, but had to contain myself.

the hidden staircase said...

so stunning...i would love to see in person! so cool SJ got to meet him...probably see some of these. You saw one at the Philbrook, right?!

Anonymous said...

maybe you need to try out the Fayetteville drive-in in 2010??

- S. Davis