woensdag 28 december 2016

Views & Reviews Being a Photographer is like Writing a Diary Poste Restante Christer Strömholm Photography

Christer Stromholm - Poste Restante

Publisher Art And Theory Publishing
ISBN 9789188031365
Idea Code 16620

Christer Strömholm, born in 1918 in Sweden, began is photographic career in earnest in1958, traveling to places like Paris, Los Angeles, Tokyo, Calcutta, and Nairobi. He is most known for his intimate black-and-white street photography portrait series. This is the first English edition of ‘Poste Restante’, a book originally published in Swedish. It comprises the original photographs, layout, and texts, including the unrevised introduction from 1967, a text based on a taped interview with Strömholm conducted over five days at a hotel in Paris. Titled “Before the Photographs”, in it he recounts childhood memories and various of his experiences during World War II.

124 p, ills bw, 21 x 25 cm, hb, English

Martin Parr, The Photobook, vol 1, page 251, 802 photo books from the M.+M. Auer collection, page 466. Very scarce and important publication of only a few existing with photos by the legendary photographer, who is also famous for "Place Blanche" or "Till minnet av mig själv" (The Open Book, Hasselblad Center, page 216/217, 802 photo books from the M.+M. Auer collection, page 443). 

-Being a photographer is like writing a diary, he said. “In Memory of Myself” he titulated one of his many books (and an exhibition).

Strömholm is known for his intimate black and white street photography portrait series and is  particularly known for his depictions of transsexuals in the Place Blanche area of the 1950’s Paris, published as Les amies de Place Blanche.

He ran Fotoskolan in Stockholm in the 1960-1970s where many great artists studied, among them Billie August and Anders Petersen.

in 1997 Strömholm received the Hasselblad Award described as “one of Scandinavia’s leading photographers, and the first post-war photographer to gain international renown”.

by Anna Tellgren

“… for me, working with photographic images is A WAY OF LIFE. When I think of it, and when I look carefully at my images, ALL of them, each in its particular way, are nothing but SELF-PORTRAITS, a part of my life.”

This quote is from a lecture held by Christer Strömholm in 1983 at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts. It was reproduced a few years later in a book about the photographer published by Kalejdoskop. The exhibition ‘A Way of Life’ presents Christer Strömholm and his friends, and brings together a group of photographers who have taken documentary photography in a more personal and artistic direction. The focus is on that which is private, intimate, intrusive, and on the subjective tendencies in Swedish photography, with the addition of a few foreign examples. The period spans from the 1940s, via the 1980s, to the 21st century. The exhibition is based on the Moderna Museet collection, presenting more than 300 pictures by 29 photographers. It highlights three contemporary photographers, Martin Bogren, Anna Clarén and JH Engström, all of whom have pursued the subjective movement in photography in different ways and on different terms.

© Christer Strömholm/Strömholm Estate, Shinohara, 1961

Christer Strömholm (1918 –2002 ) is a seminal figure in Nordic photography. He became interested in photograpy in the 1940s, via graphic art. Through the German artist Wols, he came into contact with Fotoform, a group that promoted and practised a creative and personal style of photography, far removed from the instrumental image of advertising or reportage. The head of Fotoform was the medical doctor and photographer Otto Steinert, who had begun teachIng photography at the State School of Art and Craft in Saarbrücken after the Second World War. Steinert’s ideas went back to the 1930s and the photographic experiments at Bauhaus. In the 1950s, under the collective concept of “subjective photography”, he produced three major exhibitions of modern photography that had a strong impact on many young contemporary photographers. Strömholm was featured in the first exhibition in 1951 but left Saarbrücken the following year.

While living in Paris in the 1950s and ’60s, Christer Strömholm’s style developed towards street photography. He also travelled with his camera to Spain, Japan, India and the USA during this period. He discovered and was inspired by famous French humanist photographers like Edouard Boubat, Brassaï and Henri Cartier- Bresson. But Strömholm’s photographs appear slightly more harsh and brutal in comparison, with none of the romantic or humorous allusions often found in pictures of the French capital just after the war. His motifs and approach had more in common with the revealing and personal photo-documentations of US-based women photographers Lisette Model and Diane Arbus; in Strömholm, this influence was at its strongest in the photographs of his transsexual friends at Place Blanche.

© Christer Strömholm/Strömholm Estate, Hotel Central, Paris, 1951/198

Christer Strömholm returned to Paris in the early 1970s, after a few years in Stockholm, and tried to live as an independent photographer. Christer Strömholm’s images and methods have inspired generations of Swedish photographers, but the general public did not discover him until 1986, with the exhibition 9 Seconds of My Life at Moderna Museet in Stockholm. Aged 68, he was just what the public wanted, fulfilling a general desire to highlight photography as a personal and artistic means of expression. In the mid-1950s, Christer Strömholm had begun holding photo courses, together with Tor-Ivan Odulf, at Kursverksamheten’s adult education centre in Stockholm. The courses developed into the famous Fotoskolan, which was attended by more than 1, 200 students from 1962 to 1974. The curriculum was largely based on Otto Steinert’s methods, where the key theme was to encourage individualistic, creative photography; and thus, the subjective movement has long existed as a strong undercurrent in Swedish and Nordic photography. Among Fotoskolan’s students were: Bille August ( DK ), Yngve Baum ( SE ), Dawid ( SE ), Ann Christine Eek ( SE ), Agneta Ekman ( SE ), Leif Gabrielsen ( NO ), Neil Goldstein ( SE ), Kenneth Gustavsson ( SE ), C.G. Hagström ( FI ), Walter Hirsch ( SE ), Ben Kaila ( FI ), Eva Klasson ( SE ), Tom Martinsen ( NO ), Robert Meyer ( NO ), Anders Petersen ( SE ), Håkan Pieniowski ( SE ), Marco Plüss ( SE ), Jo Selsing ( DK ), Ulf Simonsson ( SE ), Gunnar Smoliansky ( SE ), Odd Uhrbom ( SE ) and Risto Vuorimies ( FI ).

The exhibition ‘A Way of Life’ includes examples of Yngve Baum’s famous ‘Shipyard Workers’ series from the early 1970s, where he gets really close to the people and environments he portrays. We also show examples from Odd Uhrbom’s Mine project from 1968, a shattering reportage from Sweden. Both photographers rose to prominence in the genre of documentary photography, a field that grew strong, not to say dogmatic, in Sweden in the 1970s. Ann Christine Eek’s long series from the former Yugoslavia also belongs to this tradition, along with Håkan Pienowski’s photographs from Poland. From Ulf Simonsson’s oeuvre we have chosen a few affectionate child portraits from various times and settings, and Neil Goldstein is represented with four images telling about the life of the last crown crofters in the village Naisheden in the North of Sweden. Eva Klasson attended Fotoskolan for a few months, before Strömholm dispatched her to Paris. In the mid-1970s, she was widely acknowledged for a series of intimate close-ups of her own body, which she called ‘Le troisième angle’ ( The Third Angle ), alluding to the three levels or states of mind she wanted to express in her photographs. Another interesting project is ‘Poltava med guds hjälp’ ( Poltava with the Aid of God ) from 1992 by Marco Plüss, in which he interpreted and reconstructed the place and the war in a series of mysterious black-and-white pictures of nature and historic artefacts. It is possible to discern two different approaches among the students: those who leaned towards the documentary photo reportage, and those who ventured in a more poetic, private, dramatic direction – towards art.

© Nina Korhonen, Kati i båten, 1987-1995

The inner circle around Christer Strömholm included a few photographers who began as his students but eventually went on to become teachers at Fotoskolan. One of these is Gunnar Smoliansky, who attended one of Strömholm’s first evening classes in the mid- 1950s. Smoliansky has been a highly consistent photographer, portraying the objects around him on innumerable walks through the city, gradually moving more and more towards an abstract idiom. For a few years around 1990, a number of photo exhibitions were held at Lido in Stockholm. One of these featured early pictures by Christer Strömholm, selected and printed by his friend and colleague Gunnar Smoliansky. These prints were later incorporated in Moderna Museet’s collection. Another photographer who belonged to the first group of students at Fotoskolan, and who later taught there, was Agneta Ekman. Her early and only published artistic project was the photo book ‘Tall-Maja’ ( Pine-Maja, 1967 ), where she used experimental photographs to enact old folk tales about the wood nymph in the Värmland forests. The teachers also included Rune Jonsson, who studied British photography in the 1970s and is represented here with a series of his own photographs from England and Wales. Rune Jonsson had a background in the so-called Photo Club movement in Sweden, and was the editor of ‘Fotografisk Årsbok’ for four years; he also taught at the Konstfack University College of Arts, Crafts and Design until his retirement.

Walter Hirsch belonged to this innermost circle, and a series of diary pictures from the early 1980s are shown here, including portraits of several of the photographers in the exhibition. Walter Hirsch, Gunnar Smoliansky and Dawid started the publishing company DOG in 1982, together with the art director and designer Mats Alinder, which published books with their own photographs in conjunction with exhibitions at Fotografiska Museet in Moderna Museet. Later on, DOG donated a photographic collection to the Museum, and we have selected a few of these pictures, including Stina Brockman’s intimate, terse self-portrait and studies of interiors in the homes of old people at Södermalm in Stockholm’s inner city. The photographer Gerry Johansson was also involved in DOG, and the exhibition includes a series of his enigmatic nature studies produced as contact prints. Denise Grünstein became famous for her innovative portraits, and we are showing portraits of Dawid at the age of 30, and of the writer Klas Östergren in West and East Berlin. Worth mentioning in this context is Johns S. Webb’s fine artist portrait of Christer Strömholm in Höganäs, where he lived periodically during the last twenty years of his life. Dawid is represented with a double portrait of Stina Brockman and Gunnar Smoliansky, but also with examples from his ‘135–36’ and ‘Rust’ series, the latter in the characteristic deepred wooden frames. ‘Rust’ was published as a book in 1983 by DOG.

© Anders Petersen, Zigeuner-Uschi with her third husband. From the series Café Lehmitz, 1967-1970

Anders Petersen, however, is perhaps the one photographer who and has most distinctly continued in Strömholm’s spirit. He studied at Fotoskolan from 1966 to 1968, and it was during this time that he started on his series from Café Lehmitz in Hamburg ( 1967–70 ). This is still his best-known work, and it was published a few years later by Schirmel & Mosel, Germany. Throughout his career, Petersen has continued to seek out people and environments that are challenging or interesting in various ways. He has published a dozen or so books, on themes such as the Gröna Lund amusement park, circuses, prisons, mental institutions and the carnival in Venice. His approach involves making contact and being accepted – photography as a way of relating to reality; a way of life. ‘City Diary’is a work in progress which involves travelling to different cities and staying there for a while to experience and explore, before moving on. He enlarges his images to 70x100 cm, and in his most recent exhibitions he has let the pictures cover the walls almost entirely, like wallpaper, to achieve the desired effect. Anders Petersen started the Saftra group in 1967 with Kenneth Gustavsson, and in the years that followed, they made several widely acknowledged photo reportages. Moderna Museet has a collection of some 30 Saftra images that were donated by Mira Galleri. Saftra merged with Mira Bildarkiv, which was founded in 1979 and eventually represented some 40 independent photographers in Scandinavia. Among them were Ann Christine Eek, Nina Korhonen, Maud Nycander, Anders Petersen and Håkan Pieniowski. Mira, with its collective darkroom, became a meeting place, but also managed sales for its affiliated photographers, and produced several exhibitions in its own gallery.

One of the photographers who were inspired by Anders Petersen and worked alongside many male photographers in this tradition, was Catharina Gotby. Her first book, ‘Evigt brinnande tid’ ( Eternally Burning Time, 1992 ), was the result of many years working at mental institutions in Sweden and Nicaragua during the second half of the 1980s. Gotby had a distinctly documentary approach. Over time, however, she has become more interested in social issues and psychoanalysis, and her pictures examine female identity and the underlying causes of violence. Another photographer worth highlighting in this context is Nina Korhonen, whose book Minne, Muisto, Memory ( 1997 ) portrays her childhood summers in Finland in soft black and white images. In her second book, Anna, American mummu ( 2004 ), Korhonen delivers a portrait in words and images of her grandmother, who went to New York and stayed there for 40 years. For this project she used colour and larger formats.

© Kenneth Gustavsson Estate, Berlin, 1983

At the time of Christer Strömholm’s exhibition at Moderna Museet, he had attracted a following of photographers, copyists, designers and journalists from a new generation. Johan Ehrenberg and the magazine ETC carried reportages by older and younger photographers. For a few years, they also published the photo magazine ‘Picture Show’. Its first issue was devoted to Christer Strömholm and was produced in conjunction with the 1986 exhibition. The ensuing issues were about Finnish photography, polaroids, Russian underground, Spanish Harlem; the tenth and final issue included a series of photographs from Paris in 1989 by Lars Tunbjörk. Issue No 7 was also a catalogue for the exhibition of Swedish photography at FotoFest in Houston, Texas in 1988. Six photographers took part: Håkan Elofsson, Kenneth Gustavsson, Tuija Lindström, Anders Petersen, Gunnar Smoliansky and Hatte Stiwenius. Kenneth Gustavsson presented a series of new photographs in a slightly larger format, in which he continued his probings into the darkness, beauty and ambiguity of black-and-white images. Several of these photographs are now in the Moderna Museet collection, and they are featured in this exhibition. Tuija Lindström was represented in Houston by a series of female nudes – a theme she explored and elaborated on for several years, and which developed into the conceptual suite ‘Kvinnorna vid Tjursjön’ ( The Women at Lake Tjursjön, 1991 ). From 1992 and ten years onwards, Tuija Lindström was a professor at the School of Photography, University of Gothenburg. During this time, the curriculum changed in a more theoretical and artistic direction, which had a great impact on the students.

© Tuija Lindström, Maria i en båge. From the series ‘Kvinnor vid Tjursjön’, 1991

Lars Tunbjörk has recounted the powerful effect that Christer Strömholm’s book ‘Poste Restante’ ( 1967 ) had on him, and he later became one of the many young photographers who visited Strömholm to ask for advice, show their photographs, and discuss image production and life’s great questions. Tunbjörk is featured with a few examples from his breakthrough, ‘Country Beside Itself. Pictures from Sweden’ ( 1991 ), but also from his morose series Winter, which was originally shown in a solo exhibition at Moderna Museet in 2007. One of Tunbjörk’s close friends is the Latvian photographer Inta Ruka, who belongs to a generation of Baltic photographers who have documented the post-Soviet era. She has strong ties to Sweden and is one of the prominent Baltic photographers in the Moderna Museet collection of photography.

JH Engström made his breakthrough with the book ‘Härbärge’ ( Shelter, 1997 ), which has a short preface by Robert Frank. For several years, he documented the women in an institution for the homeless, portraying them in uninhibited black-and-white images. Engström has progressed from classical black-and-white documentary photography to colour. His motifs have grown increasingly personal – and revealing – over the years, with nude portraits of friends and girlfriends and pure self-portraits. In this exhibition, we show works chosen from his latest project, ‘Tout va bien’, a tale of his life and the people around him.

© JH Engström, from the series ‘Tout va bien’, 2014

In Swedish photography we often refer to a succession, where Christer Strömholm is followed by Anders Petersen, and JH Engström is a successor of both. All three are represented by Galerie Vu in Paris, where owner Christian Caujolle early discovered and exhibited Strömholm. French photography, and France/Paris as a setting, has impacted on the output of all three. The legacy of Christer Strömholm has largely been that of the independent ( male ) photographer who travels, exposes himself to life, in search of himself, and who has a secret, bohemian existence thanks to his camera. But the women photographers have, as we have seen, always been there as a strong force and tradition in Nordic photography.

© Anna Clarén, from the series ‘Holding’, 2006

Anna Clarén, like JH Engström, belongs to a generation of photographers who made their debut in the late 1990s. Her major breakthrough came with the book ‘Holding’ ( 2006 ), a project that encompasses some 50 pictures, and with a narrative that builds on an existential crisis. In bright colour photographs – dominated by pastel blue and pale skin tones – we meet people and places close to the photographer. Anna Clarén has been one of the principal teachers at Nordens Fotoskola on Biskops-Arnö. The school has an explicit policy on image production, stating that it strives to promote the authenticity of editorial pictures and that it is the photo journalist’s responsibility and subjective choices that give the image authenticity. This has of course grown even more important in our digital era, but the question of responsibility has always been paramount in documentary photography. It also reflects Christer Strömholm’s many statements on responsibility and veracity in connection with his own photography.

Martin Bogren is the third contemporary photographer highlighted in this exhibition. In ‘Lowlands’ from 2011, his atmospheric black-and-white images tell of a small rural village in Skåne, his memories, his friends, and his longing to get away. But he returned, and through the people and surroundings he experienced and photographed his own childhood and upbringing. Thus, his project is exceedingly personal and, ultimately, a self-portrait.

© Martin Bogren, from the series ‘Lowlands’, 2011

In several interviews,Nan Goldin has emphasised that she was influenced and inspired by both Christer Strömholm and Anders Petersen. One of JH Engström’s inspirations, a photographer he has collaborated and exhibited with, is Nan Goldin. She also came to Nordens Fotoskola as a guest teacher in 1992. These are some of the reasons why Nan Goldin is included in this exhibition of Swedish photography. Her entire oeuvre focuses on documenting the people and places she loves and has a special relationship to, deeply private experiences encompassing the lighter and darker aspects of existence. Christer Strömholm said that all his images were, in some way, part of his life – a perspective that is significant for all the photographers presented here. Our selection also includes several self-portraits, friend portraits, and portraits of the photographer Christer Strömholm. Through the photographers in this exhibition, we have the opportunity to see a large range of fantastic photographs that show different ways of life.

Swedish Photography from Christer Strömholm until Today
Stockholm 6 September 2014 - 15 February 2015

© Moderna Museet, Stockholm

zondag 25 december 2016

From Our House to Your House a Collection of Home-made pictorial Christmas cards from the 1930s to the 1990s Martin Parr Photography

The Presentation House Gallery has a great bookshop for photography titles. I picked up another Martin Parr book: From Our House to Your House.

This is a collection of home-made pictorial Christmas cards, from the 1930s to the 1990s. There is the usual cavalcade of outdated fashion, poor taste, and even worse humour. Families arrayed in their Sunday best, stiff and upright, or laboriously showing off their skills as performers or musicians. The 1979 card from "The Ritchie family": full colour, appalling clothes, dubious mantelpiece ornaments, porn-star moustaches. The 1980 card from Merrily and Dick Gifford, their children "Debbie, Deanna, Dick, Dan, Daurie, Ann, David, and Dicksie" all lined up by the side of the pool.

Most extraordinary, however, are the image manipulations. Often these entail distortions of scale: a family playing among outsize Christmas baubles, for instance. And there's a peculiar fascination with the notion of giant children who have their parents, literally, in the palm of their hands.

From Our House
These cards (and their attendant Christmas letters) are the means by which American families presented themselves to the world, to their extended network of friends and acquaintances. But the cracks and faultlines within those families are also all too visible, all too painfully on show.

De invloedrijke Brits fotograaf Martin Parr heeft lang ansichtkaarten en andere fotografische ephemera verzameld en publiceerde verschillende boeken met behulp van dit materiaal, met inbegrip van saai ansichtkaarten. Dit boek bevat een selectie van gepersonaliseerde kerstkaarten uit de jaren 1950 tot de jaren 1970 dat dat gezinnen zou zelf maken of van aanpassen leeg voorgedrukt voordat ze worden verzonden naar vrienden en relaties. Een eigenzinnige boekje voor het feestelijke seizoen.

Hardback in gewatteerde rode covers en in uitstekende staat.

Door dewi lewis publiceren, Stockport 2002 gepubliceerd. Eerste editie.

Bint photoBooks on INTernet would like to wish you a happy holiday weekend. All the Best & Thank you for another fun and memorable year!

vrijdag 23 december 2016

A Gate of Heaven will Open Hiroshi Sugimoto Photography

Japanese photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto given solo exhibition at Foam
Written by Tom Seymour

Bay of Sagami, Atami, 1997. All images © Hiroshi Sugimoto, courtesy Foam

An overview of the work of Japanese photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto is about to launch at Foam, Amsterdam.

Born in Tokyo in 1948, Hiroshi Sugimoto moved to the USA in 1970 to study photography.

A multi-disciplinary artist, he works in sculpture, architecture, installation and photography.

He reportedly took his earliest photographs in high school, photographing film footage of Audrey Hepburn as it played in a movie theater.

In 1970, Sugimoto studied politics and sociology at Rikkyō University in Tokyo. In 1974, he retrained as an artist and received his BFA in Fine Arts at the Art Center College of Design, Pasadena, California.

Hyena, Jackal, Vulture, 1976. Gelatin silver print © Hiroshi Sugimoto

Afterwards, Sugimoto settled in New York City. He soon started working as a dealer of Japanese antiquities in Soho.

With extreme attention to light and shadow, Sugimoto sees his work as a way of exploring our ideas and understanding of memory, its preservation and its representation.

This is most apparent in his ongoing series Seascapes, which began in 1980.

Writing of the series, Sugimoto says: “Water and air. So very commonplace are these substances, they hardly attract attention―and yet they vouchsafe our very existence.

“The beginnings of life are shrouded in myth: Let there water and air. Living phenomena spontaneously generated from water and air in the presence of light, though that could just as easily suggest random coincidence as a Deity.

Lightning Fields 327, 2014 © Hiroshi Sugimoto

“Let’s just say that there happenedto be a planet with water and air in our solar system, and moreover at precisely the rightdistance from the sun for the temperatures required to coax forth life. While hardly inconceivable that at least one such planet should exist in the vast reaches of universe, we search in vain for another similar example.

“Mystery of mysteries, water and air are right there before us in the sea. Every time I viewthe sea, I feel a calming sense of security, as if visiting my ancestral home; I embark on avoyage of seeing.”

Sugimoto’s work is represented in international collections such as the MoMA and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Smithsonian in Washington, and the National Gallery and Tate Modern in London.

Working with traditional methods, the artist reinterprets some of the principal genres in the classic tradition of photography, engaging with highly meditated conceptual elements.

The exhibition at Foam, Amsterdam, is divided into five sections devoted to the artist’s major series: Theaters (1976-ongoing); Lightning Fields (2006-ongoing); Dioramas (1976-2012); Portraits (1994-1999); and Seascapes (1980-ongoing).

On display are a total of 34 large-format works, selected by guest curator Philip Larratt-Smith, that offer a survey of the artist’s last forty years of artistic activity.

Een hemelpoort gaat voor je open
Hiroshi Sugimoto kan als geen ander ongrijpbare begrippen als ruimte, tijd en licht vangen in heldere foto's. En zo de toeschouwer de eeuwigheid in lanceren.
Hans den Hartog Jager
21 december 2016 om 20:08

Eigenlijk is het heel eenvoudig. Hiroshi Sugimoto is een van de beste fotografen ter wereld omdat hij erin slaagt ongrijpbare begrippen als ruimte, licht en tijd te vangen in foto’s die zo helder zijn, zo precies, dat ze lijken te stralen van pure overtuigingskracht.

Maar doe het maar eens.

Neem de openingszaal van Sugimoto’s overzichtstentoonstelling in Foam, Amsterdam. Daar, tegen grijze wanden en met tamelijk theatraal licht, hangen zes foto’s uit zijn serie ‘Seascapes’. Ze zijn in principe heel simpel: stuk voor stuk tonen ze een kalme zee, in zwart-wit, zonder mensen en met een horizon net even boven het midden. Toch is de zaal een knockout. Want Sugimoto slaagt erin dat overbekende landschap tot grote hoogten op te stuwen. Eerst brengt hij het terug tot zijn essentie, twee vlakken met een scheidingslijn, maar vervolgens drukt hij dat geheel zo perfect af, met zoveel gevoel voor nuance en licht en detail, dat hij die schijnbaar alledaagse werkelijkheid met een grote zwaai optilt, ver boven elke ervaring die je normaal uit het leven kent. Voor je ogen transformeert Sugimoto de zee zo tot de essentie van licht en ruimte en oneindigheid – een eeuwig beeld, waarin de tijd stilstaat en je alles om je heen kunt vergeten. Dat is op zich al een bijzondere ervaring, maar dan doen deze ‘Seascapes’ ook nog eens denken aan het werk van Mark Rothko. Volkomen terecht natuurlijk: ook Sugimoto’s foto’s gaan over het sublieme, roepen onbeheersbare emoties op – en dus maakte Sugimoto, ook niet gek, zelfs een ‘Seascape’ van de zee bij Rugen, de plaats waar oer-romanticus Caspar David Friedrich telkens terugkeerde om te schilderen.

Precies de spanning tussen verleiden en optillen aan de ene kant en beheersen en analyseren daar tegenover is de grote kracht van Sugimoto’s werk – alleen zou je dat door die sublieme, verleidelijke foto’s in de eerste zaal zomaar kunnen vergeten. De volgende zalen, waarin vier klassieke Sugimoto-series worden getoond, laten eigenlijk veel beter zien wat hem fascineert. Sugimoto heeft zichzelf altijd in de eerste plaats als een intellectueel beschouwd, een conceptueel kunstenaar die er niet op uit is zijn toeschouwers weg te laten zweven in verleiding en illusie, maar ze juist wil laten nadenken over werkelijkheid, beeld en perceptie. Hoe betrouwbaar is de fotografie? Is ze altijd een illusie? Of is ze, op haar best, juist in staat ons veel intenser naar de wereld te laten kijken dan normaal?

En inderdaad: in de rest van de tentoonstelling gaat het vooral over de kloof tussen het fotografische beeld en ‘de’ werkelijkheid, tussen constructie en illusie. Dat is het duidelijkst in ‘Lightning Fields’, een serie foto’s waarvoor Sugimoto stroomstoten direct ‘ving’ op het fotopapier, in al hun spontaniteit en grilligheid. Perfecte symbolen van de kortstondigheid van het moment zijn het, maar daardoor ook een tikje vrijblijvend – en wel érg esthetisch. Spannender zijn wat dat betreft de twee series foto’s van wassen beelden en van diorama’s. Sugimoto neemt hierbij beide keren een nadrukkelijk geconstrueerde werkelijkheid als uitgangspunt (mensen van was of dieren in een natuurdiorama) waarbij de makers iets proberen te bewerkstelligen wat eigenlijk onmogelijk is: leven suggereren en dat leven tegelijk stilzetten. Maar omdat fotografie natuurlijk precies hetzelfde doet, biedt die verdubbeling Sugimoto de kans om de verwarring over dat ‘stilgezette’ leven nog eens lekker aan te zetten. In hoeverre representeert een wassen beeld het echte leven? Of is het juist de dood? Verhoudt een foto zich überhaupt altijd tot de werkelijkheid als een wassen beeld tot een levend mens?

Al Sugimoto’s thema’s en fascinaties komen prachtig bij elkaar in zijn beroemde bioscopen-serie, die in Foam de laatste zaal vult. Hiervoor fotografeerde Sugimoto lege, vaak heel theatraal gebouwde bioscoopzalen in de Verenigde Staten op een opmerkelijke manier: de sluitertijd was precies even lang als de duur van de gedraaide film. Het resultaat is geweldig: door de extreem lange sluitertijd wordt de architectuur op de foto’s mysterieus en theatraal en vol subtiele grijs-nuances, terwijl het projectiescherm diep, lonkend wit toont als de poort naar de oneindigheid. Juist door dat prachtige contrast denk je meteen weer aan de ‘Seascapes’: alsof Sugimoto er opnieuw in is geslaagd jou, als toeschouwer, via het licht en de ruimte in de eeuwigheid te lanceren. Dat is de grote kracht van deze foto’s: steeds als je denkt dat je deze wereld beheerst, dat je de zaak onder controle hebt, trekt Sugimoto een hemelpoort voor je open – en weerstand bieden is geen optie.


Hiroshi Sugimoto. Black Box. In Foam, Amsterdam. T/m 18 maart.