Book Information - "Still Life: A Moment's Eternity"

"The Shape of a Moment"
Essay by Kotaro Iizawa

Why do people wish to stop time? Without a doubt, the reason lies in the fact that humans are mortal creatures. Whether we regard death with terror or look to it as salvation, and in spite of the varying perspectives on the matter, there is no denying the absolute certainty that death will bring an end to our lives. By stopping time, we can immortalize the scene before our eyes. Even though we are beings who must die, we receive some measure of comfort from the fact that the things we see can maintain their present form for eternity. It is toward this end that people have continuously searched for the magical means to stop time.

The fundamental motivation behind the invention of photography was certainly derived from this impulse. In 1839, when the invention of the first practical application of photographic technology, the daguerreotype, was announced in Paris at a meeting of the French Académie des Sciences, the feverish response of the people signified none other than the jubilation at finally achieving the means of stopping time. Nevertheless, because the earliest daguerreotypes required an exposure time of more than ten minutes, this magic was by no means perfected. It was not until after the 1860s that stopping time, namely capturing the moment, truly became possible with the popularization of high-sensitivity dry plates that allowed for the use of faster lenses, cutting the exposure time to several tenths or even several hundredths of a second.

Thereafter, the technology of stopping time steadily advanced; and in due course the high-speed stroboscope was invented by Professor Harold Edgerton of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The device permitted the realization of photography at the speed of several ten-thousandths of a second. Hashi’s still life works that preserve fleeting images at an astounding speed of a 100,000th of a second no doubt are an extension of these technological developments sustained by the yearning to fix a moment in time. At the very moment it became possible to stop time, what came into existence were visions that were curiously surreal and far exceeded our imaginations. When we view HASHI’s still life work, particularly his pieces that feature splattering, bursting liquids or shattering glass, we realize that they present sights utterly alien to our familiar visual world. Certainly, these are scenes that actually exist in the moment of a 100,000th of a second, yet they appear as products of a fantastic illusion. 

Of course, glass and water do in fact adopt these shapes. Yet, their form is already out of our reach. By developing the technology to stop time, we have sought to preserve the scenes before our eyes for eternity. However, what we ultimately obtained was a vision that was beyond our control. These are images that depart from the visual realm of mortals, appearing as awe-inspiring as seen through the eyes of God. Still, there is also an element of coyness and humor in them. These forms in HASHI’s photography, simultaneously realistic and fantastic, are themselves like organisms that transform and proliferate, repeating the cycle of creation and destruction. 

HASHI himself appears to take wholehearted delight in mingling with these mysterious creatures. There is a series of five photographs, entitled Four Stones that depicts the bouncing droplets and rippling waves caused by four smooth stones dropped onto the water’s surface. Among the five, three are “off-time” as they miss the decisive moment. The remaining two works are “on-time” as they faultlessly capture the correspondence between the stones and the water. 

Nevertheless, each of the “off-time” and “on-time” images has its own appeal. As products of uncontrollable chance, the “off-time” works arise as forms that could not be imagined beforehand. Conversely, with the pursuit of the deftest possible control over the setting, the “on-time” works bring forth forms of almost wondrous perfection. Contingency and inevitability, the human and the divine gaze, the moment and eternity—perhaps HASHI will continue his exploration of these extremes by dropping stones into the chasm. -- Kotaro Iizawa, Photography Critic

Copyright © 2019 Yasuomi Hashimura All rights reserved.