I really like this work by Sohei Nishino - his Diorama Maps. I came across it some time ago but didn't get around to writing about.
These are pictures I'd definitely like to see in person, but even on the internet they draw me in. Their depth and texture and detail are quite mesmerizing.
Istanbul - detail
I've long been a fan of Hockney's "joiners". I think that they said a lot about the limits of photography and also opened up interesting new potential. The problem with them was that they were such a brilliant Hockneyesque step that it seemed pretty hard to move much further beyond them in in a new direction. For a few years we were subject to a good few joiner type projects with most being somewhat poor imitation of the original idea (rather like that Gheary-lite museums popping around the globe after the Guggenheim Bilbao). When we were finally subject to a slew of joiner-like advertising it was pretty much over for the time being.
One of the more important things I liked about Hockney's original joiners was how they broke out of the perspectivism that binds most photography and how they showed some new potential ways of stepping outside Renaissance perspective with the camera.
I think Sohei Nishino's pictures have taken this at least one good imaginative step further in that direction. In part because of their scale. Not necessarily the scale of the prints - though I think they certainly need to be a certain size to be able to interact with them (originals are around 50" or 60" wide), but the scale of what they depict - a whole city. And while Hockney tackled some large subjects such as the Grand Canyon he still did so from a somewhat limited, if multiple, range of viewpoints.
London - detail
Detail Kangxi Emperor's Southern Inspection Tour, Scroll Seven: Wuxi to Suzhou (University of Alberta: Mactaggart Collection)
But then they also speak to our ways of seeing, remembering and imagining places today; from touristic views to modern technological innovation and the social networking of photographs with things like Flickr, Photosynth and Seadragon (as well as to the early career of Louis Daguerre, one of the fathers of photography, who invented the popular Diorama shows in Paris before going on to invent the photographic Daguerreotype process)
And all this is aside from the technical brilliance and what I think must just be dogged, painstaking determination in actually photographing, producing and constructing these.
From Sohei Nihino's website:
"The narrative behind the Diorama Map series is the fluid nature of memory and the setting is always a city. The creation of a Diorama Map takes the following method; Walking around the chosen city on foot; shooting from various location with film; pasting and arranging of the re-imagined city from my memory as layered icons of the city.
The Diorama Map, which is almost a bird's eye view of the city, is not a precise google map, but presents the key elements of the city in a form closer to my own memory and observation. Therefore, every single element amongst the enormous mound of pieces reflects my own act of photographic creation itself."
Of course the question now is where to take these next. A never ending series of city pictures would eventually become merely monotonous so I hope Sohei Nishino is letting his imagination run wild in considering new directions.
But in the meantime I'll continue to enjoy and take inspiration from these pictures for what they are.