Hiroshi Sugimoto’s Diorama photographic series captures a lot of what I really love about dioramas. The attempt to capture and preserve a moment of a time and history, a compromised vision between accuracy and artistry.
It is easy to see what the diorama’s at the American Museum of Natural History were of such interest to Sugimoto. A lot of his work explores the ways in which photography is used to capture time and act as a form of memory, preserving a moment in time. Dioramas built, in large part, on photographs from the original location being reproduced. The representation is the preservation and then to be rephotographed is, as the artist points out, another layer of transformation. Sugimoto describes his fascination with the dioramas as “Collections of the lost natures.” Scenes of places that will someday be lost. By rephotographing them, particularly in black and white they sense seem reborn with a new layer of authoritativeness. By being photographs they hold a new sense of truthful representation. No longer just a diorama with stuffed taxidermy and painted facades but a documented experience, a place as real as any photograph can convey. In large scale black and white, the photographs look more real than the originals themselves.