Risen in the East

Sato Shintaro

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 Sky Tree. 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 thecity, 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.

東京 | 天空樹

佐藤信太郎

押上に新東京タワーができるという噂を耳にし、興味を持ち始めていたちょうどその頃、東京スカイツリーの完成予想図用の背景写真を撮って欲しいという依頼をある会社から受けた。タワーが将来眺望できる浅草周辺の街並みを撮影し、話を聞くうちに、徐々に関心が強くなった。そして、これは自分が生まれ、被写体にしてきた東京の東側に起こる大きな変化だと気づき撮影を続けることにした。

日々変化するスカイツリーをどう捉えていけばいいのか試行錯誤が続いた。実際にどれだけ高くなるのか、数字で理解してはいても実際の光景は自分の想像を超えていく。当初は今まで通り、大判カメラとネガフィルムの組み合わせで撮影していたが、次第に被写体の変化の大きさや速さに対応しきれないと感じ、機動性の高いデジタルカメラを使用することにした。そして被写体をより精密に捉えるため、複数のカットをつなぎ合わせて一枚の写真を作る方法に切り替えた。これだとスカイツリーの成長に合わせてこちらもフレームを作っていくことができる。カメラのフレームにタワーを押し込めるというより、タワーにあわせてフレームを作る。まるで被写体がこちらに撮影姿勢の変更を要求しているように感じた。そしてこの変更はどこか気持ちが良かった。従来の撮影方法だと、ある風景を前にして体感する広がりは、カメラのフレームによって断ち切られてしまう。デジタルカメラでの撮影は、複数の画像をつなぎ合わせることで、ディテールを損なうことなく自分の体感に合わせたフレームを新たに作り出すことができるのだ。

これまでは、撮影のための条件を絞り込むことで開けてくる世界を見ていこうと思っていた。前作「非常階段東京」では、撮影時間やカメラをセットする場所、大気の状態を限定し、大判カメラで被写体を細かく描写することで、その土地の持つ歴史を背景にしたその場所固有の様相や、街を形作っていく人間の意志を捉えようとした。しかし、撮影条件を限定するということは、同時に自分が見ている他のものを切り捨てていくことだ。今回の撮影では、今までカメラを向けず切り捨ててきたものを積極的に取り込んでいった。写真は種類もフレームもばらばらになるけれど、タワーがそれらをまとめる糊のような役割を果たした。

複数のショットを1枚の写真にするということは、1枚の中に複数の瞬間が存在するという事だ。人間は1つの場面を見ている時も、せわしなく眼球を動かして複数のイメージに焦点を合わせながら、頭の中でそれらを1つに組み合わせている。だからデジタルカメラを使ったこの撮影方法はむしろ、人間の自然なものの見方に少しだけ近くなっているのかもしれない。

スカイツリーと街の撮影を続けていくうちに、以前にも増して絵巻物や浮世絵に関心が向くようになった。絵巻には1つの画面に異なる時間が存在する異時同図法という表現がある。また、浮世絵に描かれた江戸の風景は、まさに当時の人間の生活、景観の記録である。東京の原型が江戸時代に形成されたのであるならば、今の東京を撮る自分が浮世絵の世界にシンパシーを抱くのも自然なことだろう。街の中で多くの人々がそれぞれに色々な事をしている。その様子が細かく描かれた、中心を持たない画面の中を視線がいつまでもさまよう。そんな昔の絵の在り方は自分の想像力を刺激する。

東京では、江戸からの歴史、大地震や戦争の記憶などがその土地に固有の雰囲気を与えている。「非常階段東京」はその特有の雰囲気(ゲニウス・ロキ、地霊)を捉えようとしたものだと言えるが、今回もスカイツリーを介して、それを感じ取り、写真に落とし込んでいった。戦火を奇跡的に逃れた、京島界隈の歴史ある町並みの向こうに最新のスカイツリーが見えると、様々な歴史の層が入り混じる東京の厚みを強く感じる。また、浅草に当時の東京のランドマークだった凌雲閣(浅草十二階)があった事を思うと、土地の持つ記憶がスカイツリーを呼び寄せたかのようにも想像してしまうのだ。
スカイツリーは土地の歴史の中に現れ、その場所の記憶に加わることで、これからも東京を歩き、撮り続ける私を刺激してくれるに違いない。