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Sayako Sugawara: (Copy) 80. The Schwarze Mönch

Sayako Sugawara delves into the scars of old glass plates and negatives in her latest photobook.

Cover image (Copy) 80. The Schwarze Mönch by Sayako Sugawara
Cover image (Copy) 80. The Schwarze Mönch by Sayako Sugawara

Sayako Sugawara has released a new photobook – (Copy) 80. The Schwarze Mönch.

The book delves into the scars and detritus of old glass plates and negatives, blowing up their seeming imperfections to reveal textured pieces of art.

Here photography itself, and the processes behind it, are the inspiration.

Traces of time

The journey began when Sugawara discovered some glass plates from the late 1880s.

Long forgotten, the plates were sitting wrapped in newspaper in a school darkroom box.

They consisted of a mix of magic lantern slides of evocative views of Swiss Alps by Victorian photographer Graystone Bird and a box of glass negatives by an anonymous photographer depicting people in rural English towns and countryside scenery.

“As I studied them using the enlarger in the darkroom, I began to notice more traces of time on the surfaces of the plates,” says Sugawara.

“Travelling in and out of the glass, tracing fingerprints, being on a mountainside in Switzerland, through layers of mould and dust, I became interested in these plates as objects.”

(Copy) 80. The Schwarze Mönch by Sayako Sugawara
(Copy) 80. The Schwarze Mönch by Sayako Sugawara

Emerging landscapes

Moving the workspace from the darkroom to the local library’s photocopier, the journey to find the story of these objects continued.

Eventually the journey itself became the subject.

New landscapes emerged as the process of photocopying, enlarging and re-photographing the prints continued.

Along the way they collected new marks as the result of mechanical imperfections in the photocopier, dust, or creases and folds on the printed surfaces.

(Copy) 80. The Schwarze Mönch

Tracing the marks left on the surfaces, (Copy) 80. The Schwarze Mönch travels through emerging landscapes.

Eventually it reaches a strange plateau where the artist finds herself reiterating the processes of the original photographers.

Like the glass plates originally encountered, this book is an active vessel.

It carries time, memory and unique projections, continuing to accumulate new traces as it is handled by the viewer.

A page from (Copy) 80. The Schwarze Mönch by Sayako Sugawara
(Copy) 80. The Schwarze Mönch by Sayako Sugawara

Sayako Sugawara

Sayako Sugawara is a London-based Japanese artist working with photography, moving image and installation.

Using various photographic processes and the cognitive associations occurring in the physical aspect of creative development, her work explores notions of memory and imagination, analysis and poetics, stillness and movement.

The tactile aspect of the working process is essential in her practice.

Find out more at