Natural Stories by Naoya Hatakeyama

[dropcaps]J[/dropcaps]apanese photographer Naoya Hatakeyama’s hometown of Rikuzentakata, Japan, was destroyed by the March 11, 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. A few days later, he returned to what was left of his town to document the aftermath.

Can you even imagine?

Hatakeyama’s series, Rikuzentakata, was created during the 6 months after the earthquake and tsunami. Hatakeyama, who lost his mother, friends and neighbors, documents the tangled metal and strewn houses that were his community. In his typical style of neutral observation, Hatakeyama has created a haunting series of 60 images showing the quiet beauty of the devastation left behind.

Hatakeyama uses his lens to frame the chaos, quiets it down so we can look at it, and yes, finds the beauty in what was left behind.

from Rikuzentakata, 2011
from Rikuzentakata, 2011

Hatakeyama first US solo exhibit, Natural Stories, is currently at the San Francisco Museum Of Modern Art.

The exhibit covers 3 decades of Hatakeyama’s work, and includes various series, including:

  • QuarryLime Hill1980-1990 series introduces us to his exploration of where civilization and man meet. It’s shot mostly at the golden hour of evening, documenting the beauty of the limestone mining landscape.
Naoya Hatakeyama , Lime Hills #23514, 1988
Naoya Hatakeyama , Lime Hills #23514, 1988
  • Atmos, 2003 is a series from a steel factory outside Arles, France. Beautiful and bright in color, his documentation of vapor and steam mingled with natural clouds and fog make it …”no longer possible to draw a clear line between nature and the artificial.”
  • Zeche Westfahlen, Germany 2004, is a series of the detonation of a coal plant in Germany.
  • Terrils, 2009-2010 was created when he was an artist in residence at Nord-pas de Calais in Northern France. The waste from coal, steel and textile mills created slag heaps, reminders of a prosperous industrial past. “ Now only the Gods would be likely to cast down mountains from the sky. Maybe that is why from the top of a slag heap, history looks like a myth…”
  • Blast 2006, are images taken at various quarry sites in Japan with a motorized remote control camera. His camera freezes the moments of earth being blasted apart and bits flying through the air.
Naoya Hatakeyama, from Blast 2006
Naoya Hatakeyama, from Blast 2006

Naoya Hatakeyama’s work is impactful and asks us to think about what stories exist in our natural landscape, and how we interact with them.

Go take a look!



When you visit, make sure to look through the catalog by the same name as the exhibit, Natural Series. Its on display outside the exhibit, and includes some great essays.

This post is written by Barbara Bowman.

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