'Naoya Hatakeyama: "Tracing Lines / Yamate Dori" '

by Jae Lee

Taka Ishii Gallery, Tokyo

Closes Aug. 14

Hatakeyama is internationally renowned for his depictions of modern civilization and humankind’s relationship with nature, which comprise of dramatic photographs of lime quarry explosions, ominous shots of tunnels and rivers, and scale-distorting interpretations of architects’ city models. Though his subjects have been diverse, his overarching theme of man’s appetite for expansion is clear and further explored in “Tracing Lines / Yamate Dori.”

Since 2008, Hatakeyama has been focusing on Yamate-dori, a 10-km major road that bisects Tokyo from north to south. His photographs in this series emphasize the saturated colors found in today’s cityscape and highlight how steel and concrete structures form synthetic yet organic lines.

In past interviews, he has referred to photography as a medium that can trace lines that he sees as metaphors for the relationship between humans, nature and the city. Perhaps this is why we rarely see people in this series of photographs; instead their existence and effect on civilization are signified by the synthetic structures and saturated colors of their creations.

Also on show is Hatakeyama’s “Slow Glass” series of various Tokyo cityscapes captured by a “slow-glass camera,” his own invention of a camera set up in a box with a glass-plate front. The glass plate protects the camera from the elements, but also uses raindrops as multiple tiny lenses that focus on the landscape.

This ingenious use of nature and chance to reveal the city — he took the slow-glass camera out on rainy days and sometimes even left it on the hood of his car to take shots — shows that not only does Hatakeyama’s diverse body of work adhere to his signature theme, but some of it also literally demonstrates it.

The Taka Ishii Gallery in Kiyosumi- Shirakawa is open Tue.-Sat. from 12-7 p.m., closed Sun. and Mon. For more information, visit or call 03-5646-6050.