A Focus on Tranquillity


One man’s serenity is another man’s boredom, and no one’s photographs bring this fact into focus more clearly than Hiroshi Sugimoto’s modestly scaled seascapes.

If you’re in the right mood, the 49-year-old photographer’s intentionally undramatic prints may take you on tranquil escapes from the hubbub of modern life. But if you’re in the wrong mood, then none of the 23 black-and-white pictures at Angles Gallery will even cause you to pause.

All of Sugimoto’s photographs of the sea and sky strive to slow down viewers. To achieve this goal, the Tokyo-born, New York-based artist travels all over the world to find the perfect shoreline, and then strips his images of it down to a bare minimum. His large body of work consists of seemingly endless variations on the ways sunlight and moonlight travel through the atmosphere and reflect off of water.

While we usually think of photographs as capturing split-second slices of life, Sugimoto prefers to compress long expanses of time into single images. Exposing his film for up to three hours, he slows the photographic process down to a snail’s pace.


As a result, many of his pictures include wide swathes of pure white, which seem to have been burned into the predominantly gray prints as the sun or the moon passed overhead, casting its light on the ocean below. The horizon almost always dissolves into a mysterious blur, and most of the images are softly out of focus, as if the world itself had become a ghostly presence that’s one step away from vanishing completely.

Given such a restricted set-up, Sugimoto manages to infuse his photos with a wide range of effects. Filled with inviting emptiness, they transform stark compositions into quietly expansive retreats.


Hiroshi Sugimoto, Angles Gallery, 2230 Main St., Santa Monica, (310) 396-5019, through Dec. 27. Closed Sundays and Mondays.