The majority of the photographs in this exhibition are ‘landscapes’ in which views of the earth seen from the sky or from space are overlaid with translucent images of the interiors of passenger aircraft or the shadows of people.
Two photographs mounted onto light boxes show cities of skyscrapers, as though seen from an aircraft window when landing. They are an interesting alternative to Naoki Honjyo’s ‘model’ photography: while Honjyo takes photographs of reality and distorts them so that they look like intricate models, Watanabe builds featureless models of cities and photographs them so as to create a different, more oppressive vision of the world we live in. The cities are isolated in a vast, white expanse of desert-like landscape and sky. While the atmosphere is not necessarily post-apocalyptic, I couldn’t help but feel that they are a grim forecast of the future. Such vistas may seem familiar to people from Saudi Arabia or Dubai, where high-rise cities of glass and steel rise up out of the desert, but to a Western audience they look like our cities in a world where global warming has rendered the environment harsh and inhospitable.
‘My Ordinary Days’ is an interesting choice of title for this exhibition. For many of us, international travel is an increasingly regular feature of our lives; anyone with 90,000 yen or less and some time to spare can find themselves on the other side of the planet in 24-36 hours if they want, and yet just over one hundred years ago travelling such vast distances in such a short time was unimaginable. However, commercial air travel contributes significantly to global warming, so we live in a time where a privileged minority of the planet’s population has unprecedented means to travel the world and enjoy it, but in doing so gradually destroys it. Going to see Hidehiro Watanabe’s photographs is on the one hand an enchanting, escapist experience, and yet if you consider the implications of what he is depicting, on leaving the gallery you may find yourself brought back down to earth with a sudden jolt.