SATO Shintaro “ Risen in the East ”
Jan. 13 ‒ Feb. 25, 2012
Just at the time my interest was piqued by rumors that a new Tokyo Tower was going to be built in Oshiage, I received
a request from a company to take background photographs for a conceptual drawing of the Tokyo Sky Tree.
I photographed scenery in the Asakusa area, which would have a good view of the tower in the future. As I heard people talk about it, I became increasingly interested.
I was born in the eastern part of Tokyo and it has been the subject of my photographs, so when I realized that a big change was going to take place there, I decided to make a photographic record of it.
I went through a period of trial and error trying to decide how to capture the day-to-day changes undergone by the
I understood how tall it was going to be in numerical terms, but the actual sight of such a structure was beyond my
imagination. At first I photographed it with a large-format camera and negative film, which is my usual practice.
After a while, though, I found that this method wasn't adequate to keep up with the large and rapid changes that were happening to the subject, and began using a digital camera, which is much more flexible.
Also, in order to capture the subject with more precision, I switched to a method of putting several shots together to make
one picture. That way I could create frames that were tailored to the Sky Tree's growth. It was a matter of fitting frames to the
tower rather than fitting the tower into the camera frames.
It seemed as if the subject was asking me to change my photographic approach. And this change somehow felt good to me. With the photographic method I normally used, the extent of scenery I was experiencing would be partially cut off by the camera frame.
But by photographing with a digital camera and putting together several images, I was able to make frames that encompassed
everything I was seeing without sacrificing any of the details.
Until now, it has been my practice to narrow down photographing conditions and then see what kind of world unfolded as a result. In my last collection, Tokyo Twilight Zone, by placing the camera in certain locations at certain times and shooting only when atmospheric conditions were right with a large-format camera to convey detailed pictures of the subject, I endeavored to capture the special faces of places around the city set against their local history, as well as the intentions of people
who shape the city. But defining conditions also means that other things I see get left out of the picture. For the Sky Tree collection, I made it a point to include those left out things I hadn't focused the camera on before.
The resulting pictures are of various types and frames, but the tower is the glue that brings them all together.
Putting several shots together into one picture means that many instants exist in that picture. This also happens when
people look at a scene; we move our eyes busily, focusing on several images and assembling them into a single image in our
head. So this method of photographing with a digital camera rather than a large-format camera might be a little closer to the
way people naturally look at things.
As I continued to photograph the Sky Tree and the city, I became even more deeply interested in e-maki (picture scrolls) and ukiyo-e (pictures of the leisure activities of ordinary people). The Japanese picture scroll employs a compositional method in which successive events (different times) are shown against a unified background in one illustration. The scenes of Edo depicted in ukiyo-e are records of the life and environment of the people of that time.
If the original shape of Tokyo was formed during the Edo Period, then it is natural for me, as I photograph
the Tokyo of today, to feel an affinity for the world of ukiyo-e.
These pictures portray in detail large numbers of people engaged in various acts in the streets of Edo and have no central subject, so that the eye of the viewer continues to wander over the illustration. The compositional concept of these pictures from long ago stimulates my imagination.
Tokyo possesses a distinctive atmosphere arising from a number of things including a long history beginning in the Edo Period and the memory of earthquakes and war.
You could say that Tokyo Twilight Zone was my attempt to capture this unique atmosphere — its genius loci, so to speak. I sense it this time, too, and have endeavored to inject it into the photographs with the Sky Tree as intermediary. Looking at the Sky Tree looming up beyond the traditional-style buildings lining the streets of Kyojima, a district that miraculously escaped damage from the war, I strongly feel the depth of Tokyo in its mix of diverse layers of history. And when I recall that Asakusa was the location of Ryounkaku tower (popularly called Asakusa 12-stories), a Tokyo landmark during the Meiji and Taisho periods, I find myself imagining that perhaps the memory possessed by this place called the Sky Tree into being. Now that the Sky Tree has appeared in the flow of history here to take a place in the memory of the district, I know I will always find inspiration in it as I walk the streets continuing to record Tokyo in photographs.