LONDON — The first image at the Hayward Gallery’s show of work by Japanese photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto is a pair of upright apes walking through a volcanic landscape. For just a brief moment, I wondered if the artist had traveled back in time somehow. The figures stand with mouths agape in the savannah, as if taking in the odd reality of earth a few million years ago, and I felt transported back to those early moments of human-like consciousness.
Titled “Earliest Human Relatives,” the photo is one of about a dozen portraying dioramas at the American Museum of Natural History and other museums. Sugimoto used a large format camera to take 20-minute exposures. By capturing textures and tones he makes these frozen statues feel alive. In “Manatee,” a manatee child and its parent swim just beneath the surface of the water, while in “Alaskan Wolves,” I can feel the desolate call of the wilderness for a pack of seven staring out into the snow.
Featured image: Hiroshi Sugimoto, “Kenosha Theater, Kenosha” (2015), gelatin silver print