The world of art photography fascinates me. I especially love those who refer to themselves as “artists”, their art being typically exemplified by boring, flat, sad photos where the “artist” himself is shown with vacuous eyes, half naked, a cigarette maybe, with another sad human or animal being by his side. Or empty landscapes showing detritus and crap with not an ounce of interestingness.
I find it wildly entertaining and maddening at the same time their ability to write so much and with so many complicated words about the void their art is made of.
I love even more critics that find meaning in these empty images. It leaves me cold and a bit angry, I admit, that some of these “artists” are even able to pay their bills with this shit they (and nobody else) call “art”.
Consider this japanese “artist”, Hiroshi Sugimoto.
He takes photographs to dioramas in the Natural History museum in New York, and his rationale is that two representations of reality (number 1: the diorama; number 2, the camera) they cancel each other so that the result is a “true” image of the past being depicted in the diorama.
As Mr. Sugimoto writes in [his website](http://www.sugimotohiroshi.com/diorama.html:
Upon first arriving in New York in 1974, I did the tourist thing. Eventually I visited the Natural History Museum, where I made a curious discovery: the stuffed animals positioned before painted backdrops looked utterly fake, yet by taking a quick peek with one eye closed […] suddenly they looked very real.
So what he does is basically takes photos of these dioramas like any other guy that visits the museum. Only, he does it better, because due to his artist’s status, he’s allowed to take tripod and assistants and all the time he needs.
So an assistant, Hiroshi Sumiyama, got inside the curtains, dressed head-to-toe in solid black — a cheap Halloween ninja costume that everyone on the team, including Mr. Sugimoto, wore that day to eliminate the possibility of reflection. Holding up a black pole, he energetically waved a placard attached to the top of the pole during the length of the three-and-a-half-minute exposure, to “dodge” down the brightness of the clouds in a way that is usually done in the darkroom.
Alright, these diorama crap may be just a divertissement, made it on purpose to have guys like me go mental. Let’s have a look at his portfolio then.
To me, this is even worse than the dioramas.
So how come Mr. Sugimoto can call himself an “artist”? Well, that’s because
Like many contemporary photographers, Mr. Sugimoto’s work grapples with questions of perception and photography’s claims to truth.
Pretty clear. While I take pictures of things I see in my daily life, of my family or friends sometimes, the artist asks himself deep (and vague) questions about… perception, right. And the truth. Maybe even politics and religion. Taking photos of fucking dioramas.
- Are these photograhers geniuses? by Allen Murabayashi.