Slideshow: Naoya Hatakeyama's 'Personal Landscapes' of Post-Earthquake Japan

Naoya Hatakeyama is one of the world’s leading contemporary landscape photographers and has documented sites in Japan, France, Switzerland, Germany, the United Kingdom, and Brazil. His work comments on the relationship between urbanization and the natural world and on the life cycle of a city. Since the 2011 Tōhoku Earthquake, Hatakeyama has frequently returned to his tsunami-ravaged home of Rikuzentakata in Iwate Prefecture, near the earthquake’s epicenter, to photograph the transformed landscape.

Hatakeyama is currently featured in the Museum of Fine Arts Boston exhibition In the Wake: Japanese Photographers Respond to 3-11. He spoke with Asia Blog via email leading up to his artist talk on ‘Personal Landscapes’ tonight at Asia Society Texas Center.

In a recent interview, you mentioned first entering university as an art student, with interests in printmaking and painting. How did those experiences influence you later as a photographer? Are there other artists, forms, or movements that have since influenced your work and philosophy?

Some of those who are attracted to photography unconsciously come to the medium from such fields as film, painting, literature, contemporary art (after post-minimalism), and in recent years, computer games. In my case, an entrance to the medium was painting. From the beginning I felt close to the style where a single piece of work was hung on the wall.

There are numerous people and artists who have impacted me. At the beginning of my career as an artist, I was influenced by the idea of avant-garde art through Professor Kiyoji Otsuji.

Your work concerns the relationship between nature, the city and photography. What are particular issues and places that are of interest to you?

Rikuzentakada (in Iwate Prefecture) has been a focus recently. It is a place that cannot be compared to any other place in the world.

You are featured in MFA Boston’s exhibition In the Wake: Japanese Photographers Respond to 3/11. How did the tragedy impact you and your photography? What role have you seen art play in the nation’s healing process?

It has changed the way I think about time and history. For details, please see my essay in a new book to be published in May by Kawade Shuppan-sha.

I believe that the tragedy has increased among many the awareness that it is important to produce their own art in the process, in addition to the conventional attitude of observing or receiving art made by others.

What’s in store for you in 2015?

To meet and communicate with those who are in generations younger than mine, living in areas other than mine, and people outside of photography and visual art.

Yasufumi Nakamori provided translation assistance for this interview.

About the Author

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Tim Lau is a Content Producer at Asia Society. He is a New Jersey native and has also lived in Greater Chicago and Washington, DC.