Born in 1958, Naoya Hatakeyama is a Japanese photographer who studied art at the University of Tsukuba. Since childhood, he has been admiring the countryside and the natural beauty of the mountains in his home region. His works explore human interventions with natural landscapes and architecture. In 1983, he organized his first exhibition in Tokyo at Zeit-Foto Salon where he showcased a group of black-and-white pictures of a modest lighthouse, ploughed fields, shadows cast on a newly paved road. The following year, he moved to Tokyo and began working in color, a practice he even continues to date. 

Naoya Hatakeyama and his views through lens - Sheet1
Naoya Hatakeyama_©

Along with innumerable solo and group exhibitions, Hatakeyama’s photographs are also found in public buildings such as the National Museum of Modern Art of Osaka and Tokyo. He has been awarded various awards such as the 22ndKimura Ihei Memorial Photography Award, 16th Higashikawa Domestic Photographer Prize, 42nd Mainichi Award of Art and Photographer of the Year Award from the Photographic Society of Japan.

Naoya Hatakeyama’s Vision

Naoya Hatakeyama and his views through lens - Sheet2
Naoya Hatakeyama _©

Naoya Hatakeyama categorizes his vision into two parts namely- things that are standing and things that are lying. The standing things rise out vertically from the ground and include the humans walking, houses, buildings, trees, forests, and mountains. As the photographer walks, these things change in shape and size thus resisting his vision to frame and capture it. In contrast, the lying things are the horizontal things like floors, corridors, streets, rivers, deserts which do not disturb the photographer’s vision.

According to Naoya Hatakeyama, architecture is an interesting visual treat that evokes a sense of pleasure and excitement. When the architect photographs the architecture, he either feels form follows function and sometimes he discovers historical details. He has the ability to change the balance between the walls and the depth and thereby modify the filled quotient of the frame, by merely shifting the position of his camera by a few centimeters. 

Hatakeyama has been exploring the relationship between built and unbuilt in the form of the natural environment and residential buildings. He captures diverse places ranging from material production sites such as stone quarries, coal-mine factories, and steel plants to “end products” such as a major avenue in Tokyo. By capturing both production sites and end products, his photographs remind us that even the most polished residential settlements derive from raw nature. 

Naoya Hatakeyama’s Works

Naoya Hatakeyama and his views through lens - Sheet3
Naoya Hatakeyama‘s Work_©

Hatakeyama’s first major project was Lime Hills (1986-1990) which consisted of photographs of limestone quarries spread across Japan. In this Lime Works series and his other upcoming works, he maps the transformation of the Japanese landscape from limestone cliffs to concrete cities. His works are displayed in museums namely the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; and the Victoria and Albert Museum. 

The devastating 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami shifted his focus as not just a nation but his hometown was completely demolished and people suffered terrible losses. Since then he has been studying not only the devastation caused by the disaster but also the experience of returning to the affected places several times in the years since and witnessing the extreme changes taking place. 

It had provoked him to rethink his work, particularly the segregation of his own private or personal photography from his work as an artist. His Rikuzentakata series (2011) brings together the personal photographs captured by him in the past with the pictures of reconstruction stages.

The photographs he had taken during his college days consisted of a simple form or building located in a wide, flat area when looked from a distance. The horizontal photographs he shot had a larger exposure of the sky in the background. He liked the simplicity of these photographs. But while walking around the streets of Tokyo, it was hard for him to come across wide-open spaces or forms that were distinct. The areas in Tokyo are cluttered and narrow. Several lines and planes obstruct the photographer’s view. Photographs teach us the “certainty” of external reality; at the same time, they teach us the “uncertainty” of what happens when reality is embodied in our thought process. 

When we look at photographs as a source of information, there are no apparent changes in our perceptions regarding them over time. But our mental state continually changes daily. The message conveyed through a photograph will change depending on the change in the mental state of the person viewing the photograph. This is not a “meaningless change” but a “good change.”

For the past thirty years, Naoya Hatakeyama has practiced a photographic examination of the lives of cities and the built environment. Each of his series focuses on a different aspect of the growth and transformation of the urban landscape from studies of architectural drawings to the extraction and use of natural materials such as limestone.


Hatakeyama, N., 2021. The Photographer and Architecture.

Aperture. 2021. Inside Naoya Hatakeyama’s Excavating the Future City | Aperture.

Hatakeyama, N. and Hatakeyama, N., 2021. Artist Talk: About My Work.SFMOMA.


Manali is a fresher in the world of architecture. Holding a strong passion for writing and profession of architecture, she has a vision to combine them both along with her skills of research and analysis to make this world a better place for all.

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