Friday, August 3, 2012

Naoya Hatakeyama at SFMOMA

Man’s relentless efforts to master the environment. That’s the underlying message I took away from my visit to SFMOMA to see the current exhibition of photography by Naoya Hatakeyama. But there is a twist.

The first images in the exhibition are of expansive landscapes featuring dramatic mountains. The mountains, other than being pretty held no obvious message, they are just “pretty.”

The images I found more appealing were of abandoned and working quarries and were photographed as grand landscapes and had a definite message. From an anthropological point of view they tell a dramatic story of the consequences of the archaic notion, so persistently maintained by human kind, that nature can and should be conquered. Hatakeyama’s work so clearly shows us that the fact that the earth will never bend to the human will is lost yet on another generation.

Hatakeyama demonstrates how this quest of humanity to dominate the very environment that gives it life, is carried out by every means that is violent. The irony is dramatically evident in his imagery of the aftermath of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan. These images share a gallery with a sequence of photographs of quarry blasting, images that capture the brutally violent reality and consequence of the explosions. But still, what these images tell us is that despite every effort by “man,” nothing will ever match the violence of which nature is capable. Nature is the master and there is no such thing as conquering the environment.

Photos: © Naoya Hatakeyama

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Food for Thought


"Conditions for photojournalism have changed dramatically during the last decades. It has receded practically completely into the background as a source of primary information. Gone are the days of the great picture essays like the funeral of Winston Churchill in February 1965. Life magazine rented houses along the parade route especially for the purpose of covering the event from various angles, and an aircraft was chartered to transport the exposed films. One can already recognize the motion picture principle in these reportages, i.e. sequences of still pictures. It wasn't much later that the mass medium of moving pictures - global television - made such reportages superfluous. We now expect pictorial information at the time an event is actually occurring, in other words, live. Life magazine, along with nearly all current picture magazines, has disappeared from the market. War reportages as part of photojournalism were able to survive only because some daredevil photographers venture further into combat zones than the more cumbersome TV crews. Reportage photography must therefore devote itself to other subjects or change its tendencies. This is already clearly evident in photographic competitions. Photographers are developing a more artistic approach or they describe their topics in a very subjective manner. This type of work is finding less and less of an adequate forum in magazines. Often the appropriate form of publication of large works is a book, which will then be reviewed again in magazines. But the style forms of reportage photography have also inspired other categories, for example fashion- and sports photography. In doing so, this type of photography restricts itself entirely to formal depictions. Naturally, the explanatory nature of classic reportage photographers, who for a time devoted their lives to showing certain events to the world, no longer plays any role."

- Horst Moser
(From: "Astonish Me, Surprise Me! by Horst Moser, Leica World 2/2002)

Photo: ©2011 David W. Sumner