Hiroshi Sugimoto has always used his camera to explore unseen phenomena — artifacts of time, light, the elements, and human perception. For his latest project, Lightning Field , he traded optics for electricity. He wields a Van de Graaff generator to send up to 400,000 volts through film to a metal table.
“I see the spark of life itself, the lightning that struck the primordial ooze,” Sugimoto says. Although some of the effects happen by chance, the artist does try to exercise control. “I have a kitchen’s worth of utensils that produce sparks with different characteristics,” he says. “But there are many variables — weather, humidity, perhaps even what I had for breakfast — I’m never sure what influences the results.”