Past Presence 001, 2013
Tall Figure III, Alberto Giacometti

Past Presence 041, 2014
Broadway Boogie Woogie, Pet Mondrian

Past Presence 075, 2016
Mlle, Pogany II, Constantin Brancusi

Past Presence 057, 2014
The Empire of Light, II, Réne Magritte

Past Presence 


In 2013 MoMA commissioned me to photograph their sculpture garden.  Designed by Philip Johnson, it is home to many masterpieces of Modernist sculpture.  Among the many famous pieces there, a Giacometti sculpture was the first to catch my eye. The form is extenuated—as if all the flesh had been scraped off a human body—while what remains successfully expresses the condition of being in extremis. This sculpture of Giacometti had already achieved what I set out to achieve with my own approach to photography. I therefore photographed the Giacometti sculpture twice, once in broad daylight and once in the evening twilight. For me, it evoked an image of two figures in Noh drama. Noh is about dead souls coming back to life and becoming visible. In the maejite (the first half of a Noh play), the dead take human form and lament their own passing. In the nochijite (second half), the ghosts of the dead reappear again dance a dance of bitter sorrow because they cannot rest easily in their graves. In the performance one catches a glimpse of the dead, though the degree of reality depends not just on the power of the acting, but, to a large extent, on the viewer’s own imaginative abilities. Photographing Giacometti gave me the sense of watching a Noh drama, because in Noh the past is reborn as the present. Inspired by Giacometti, I went on to photograph other sculptures in the garden.