Tuesday, June 17, 2008

A Bird (Blast #130) by Naoya Hatakeyama

My posts tend to be rather long (which I think is a good thing) but there are times when I'd simply like to be brief and spotlight some books I feel I've been neglecting. There are many fine titles that I think are interesting and worth your notice but when I sit to write about them, the words don't come easily. So as an exercise in brevity I am going to start to throw a few short posts into the mix and hopefully I can do so without short changing anyone's book -- or you, the readers.

Recently I picked up the book A Bird (Blast #130) from the Japanese photographer Naoya Hatakeyama. Since this book is simply a sequence of 17 photographs of an explosion throwing earth into the air I thought it would become stale very quickly but much to my surprise it hasn't. Of all of Hatakeyama's work, the blast series is the most interesting to me. The limeworks photographs and his other industrial work do little to grab my attention like a good slow-motion explosion that throws earth at your face can.

A Bird (Blast #130) is great because it is so much about the unpredictable nature of photography to hold something and allow the discovery of beauty. In this sequence, the camera is static and the first two frames describe a rocky plateau overlooking a body of water. The ground looks leveled as if being prepared for some construction to begin. White patches of fine sand dot the level ground. The sky is shows signs of an oncoming storm and against the grey of a cloud, a small silhouette of a bird appears flapping towards the camera.

By frame three, the ground erupts into puffs of white from the sand patches and the earth starts to rise. Frame four, the whole plateau becomes an undulating wave as chunks of rock are frozen by the camera shutter -- the bird reacts by changing the direction of its course. On and on, the dirt, rocks and dust are thrown into the air until gravity once again slows its progress and pulls it all back to earth leaving the last remnants of rock to disappear into a dust cloud. After the dust settles, the bird is seen high-tailing it out of the area. (BIRD coincidentally means Blast-Induced Rock Damage but that has nothing to do with the book's title).

This would be a seductive sequence just based on the fact that the camera has slowed the fascinating transformation caused from the blast, but what keeps me responding to this work is the way that the explosion itself created such a beautiful form that fills the static frame. It is really luck falling on the side of the artist. There would be no way to predict the shape of the explosion, nor the coincidence of the bird appearing and flying in the perfect patch of sky as if an actor hitting their mark. I have seen many of Hatakeyama's blast photographs and none seem to transcend the fascination with the explosion like this one does. Surely that is why this deserves its own book.

A Bird (Blast #130) is finely printed and designed and was published in 2006 by the Taka Ishii gallery in an edition of 1000 copies.

Buy online at ICP Bookstore