For the past 35 years, Naoya Hatakeyama has been photographing his beloved city of Tokyo. The artist has described his photographic practice 'like kicking a stone from place to place. The most exciting thing is to find the next picture I want to take.' Stone, as metaphor, is apt for the artist’s work; limestone, the main ingredient of cement, is the raw material needed to build the city, and is the central overarching theme of his work. It has led him from the quarries of the island of Hotoku, to cement factories, to the tops of Tokyo’s skyscrapers and the bowels of her buried river systems.
The city boasts nearly 14 million residents, and is at once sublime and harsh, crowded yet magical. Eschewing a hand-held, Post-War, street style photographic practice, Hatakeyama has instead documented the city from a variety of angles and positions, often employing a large-format camera to maximize the details retained.
Photography curator Yasufumi Nakamori has asserted that 'Hatakeyama’s fascination with contemporary Tokyo is as particular as that of Felix Nadar to mid-19th century Paris. But through the eyes of Nadar, who photographed Parisian streets from a balloon and the city’s underground catacombs and sewers using an artificial light he invented, Paris was decaying. To Hatakeyama, Tokyo is constantly renewing itself.'
The artist’s curiosity led him to the Shibuya River, an ancient, small stream which runs through downtown Tokyo. In his River Series of 1993/1994, Hatakeyama photographed the city from 16 feet below street level, standing on the cement bed of the barely trickling river. The works exude a tranquility that is rarely seen in Tokyo, mingling natural and artificial light in a near-perfect balance.
A set of these works resides in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York.