In 1995, after working for seven years to gain permission, Sugimoto was able to photograph inside the twelfth/thirteenth-century Buddhist temple known as the Hall of Thirty-Three Bays. The temple houses 1,000 sculptures of the bodhisattva Kannon (an enlightened being of boundless compassion) that create a vision of the Buddhist afterlife. In order to photograph the site as it would have been experienced centuries ago, Sugimoto had the temple’s late-medieval and early modern embellishments removed and the artificial lighting turned off. He captured the sculptures at the moment when they were bathed in the light of the morning sun filtering through the paper screens facing them. This photograph is from a series of 48 consecutive images. Though the photographs appear almost identical, close study of the images reveals subtle differences throughout the composition. Presented together, they immerse the viewer in what Sugimoto has called a "sea of Buddha."
From Bulletin of the Detroit Institute of Arts 89 (2015)
Artist Hiroshi Sugimoto, Japanese, born 1948
  • Hall of Thirty-Three Bays
  • Sea of Buddha (alternate title)
Date 1995
Medium gelatin silver print
Dimensions Image: 16 5/8 × 21 3/8 inches (42.2 × 54.3 cm)
Sheet: 18 5/8 × 23 5/8 inches (47.3 × 60 cm)
Mount: 19 3/4 × 25 inches (50.2 × 63.5 cm)
Framed: 26 × 32 3/4 inches (66 × 83.2 cm)
Credit Line Museum Purchase, Albert and Peggy de Salle Charitable Trust Fund, Asian and Islamic Art Forum, Asian and Islamic Art Forum Acquisition Fund; and gift of Clan Crawford, Jr. by exchange
Accession Number 2007.4.1
Department Prints, Drawings & Photographs
Not On View
Signed Signed, in pencil, on mount, lower right: Hiroshi Sugimoto
Marks Dry stamp, on sheet, below image, lower right: 3/25 046
(Sonnabend Gallery, New York, New York, USA);
2007-present, purchase by the Detroit Institute of Arts (Detroit, Michigan, USA)
Kit-Yiu Chau, Amelia. "Allusive Variation: Hiroshi Sugimoto's Hall of Thirty-Three Bays" Bulletin of the DIA: Photography 84, 1/4 (2010): pp. 42, 44.