An Interview with Hatakeyama Yohei (Director)
People’s Voices Photographed Onto Landscapes
Q: Seeing this film, I feel a strong trust between you two (the protagonist and filmmaker). I understand that Naoya was your teacher at a school you once attended. How did he and you, once teacher and student, come to make this film together?
HY: I studied photography from Naoya at a school I went to 20 years ago. I remember vividly how passionate he was as a teacher and I’ve respected him as a person ever since. He says I left an impression on him because I was one of the first students he taught at school. Ever since, we have stayed in touch and became good friends.
When we met in January 2012, he told me that he wanted to say something about the 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster, but by using a means that was not photography. We began to do things together, including taking part in the Everyone’s Home project—an initiative to establish a community space for Rikuzentakata locals. He took photographs and I worked on video.
Naoya goes on to publish the photo volume Kesengawa and continues taking photos of Rikuzentakata. It moved me to see how he quietly kept on shooting landscapes in the disaster zone, and inspired me to record his work in a film.
Q: How do you think Naoya’s photographs have changed before and after the disaster?
HY: An artist who was once unrelenting in his pursuit of new forms of expression has now decided to simply capture what he sees before him, without relying on technique. That’s how I see it.
Naoya is someone who had always put western theory into practice. If we take his past work as something representing the western art world, I’d say his post-disaster work is beginning to include the sensibilities of Japanese traditional painting.
Q: As I saw Naoya deep in conversation with the locals, it reminded me that he was not only photographer Hatakeyama Naoya, but also a victim and survivor of the disaster himself. Did you have that in mind when you were filming him?
HY: Naoya in Rikuzentakata on an ordinary day would go around visiting places and talking to people without deciding in advance what he would shoot. That motivated me to do the same, to welcome the idea of filming without a preconceived plan.
It was what he did when he was not taking pictures that determined the photography he produced. When I understood that, I decided that the film would be good enough with that stance, too.
I am sure Naoya, like other victims of the tragedy, carries sorrow and conflict within himself. But it’s not easy to portray that. That’s why instead of providing information and asking audiences to think rationally, I aspired to make a film where the viewer would want to embrace and feel something.
Q: What thoughts did you have when you named this film Tracing the Future?
HY: Naoya once wrote an essay titled “Tracing Lines” about photographs of a certain architectural work. The words he used there seemed to point to the essence of his philosophy about photography. I placed that inspiration into the context of this film and came up with Tracing the Future.
(Compiled by Ishizawa Kana)
Interviewers: Ishizawa Kana, Kano Megumi / Translator: Fujioka Asako
Photography: Sato Hiroaki / Video: Kato Takanobu / 2015-09-26 in Tokyo