A limestone mine may be an odd place to wait for a sunset, but that is just what Japanese photographer Naoya Hatakeyama did in his series of photos of mines called Lime Hills.
Here, Hatakeyama makes sly use of romantic pictorial traditions, creating contrasts as he turns his lens to subjects like quarries and mines, setting the stage for enjoyment of these bizarrely ethereal scenes. In his images reversals are everywhere--what was once hidden beneath the ground is now piled high above it. The very ground beneath our feet is flying through the air. In yet another reversal, rocks become clouds for a few earthshaking moments.
While shooting the landscapes of Lime Hills
, Hatakeyama became interested in the earth-moving processes at the mines. Explosives are used at mines to break up rock mass. In a typical technique, drill holes at two inches wide and 12-14 feet deep are bored at regular intervals into the rock face and then detonated. The use of detonation devices with a time delay helps move and loosen the rock in a more predictable way, and lessens ground vibrations.
Eventually, Hatakeyama was able to gain access to shoot detonations at the mines using a remote-controlled camera. Limestone is made primarily of ancient shells, coral and sea organisms that piled up on the bottom of the ocean. Limestone is a source of calcium carbonate used in the manufacturing of glass, plastics, concrete, and agriculture lime. In a recent post on SFMOMA's blog
, Hatakeyama said: “If the concrete buildings and highways that stretch to the horizon are all made from limestone dug from the hills, and if they should all be ground to dust and this vast quantity of calcium carbonate returned to its precise points of origin, why then, with the last spoonful, the ridge lines of the hills would be restored to their original dimensions.”
More than just a by-product of decades of industry, these landscapes of artless new mountains and valleys take on a delicate mythical quality. Are these new harsh vistas created by quarreling demigods? Perhaps these deep cuts in the earth are the very passageways used by Persephone as she joins Hades in the underworld for yet another season.
Hatakeyama is from Rikuzentakata, in Iwate Prefecture, an area devastated by the tsunami in 2011. His exhibition at the San Francisco Museum of Art can be viewed through November 4th, 2012. It spans the artist's career beginning in the 1980's, and includes the 2011 series, Rikuzentakata
, recording the aftermath of the 2011 Tohoku earthquake.All images by Naoya Hatakeyama. Still from Twenty-Four Blasts, 2011; HD video installation from a sequence of 35 mm film.