Book Review: The Narcissistic City
By Emily Davis
“What kind of gaze does the city license? What kind of gaze does it induce, determine, inform, program, organise? What kind of gaze, not only is the subject able to turn on itself, but does the city- machine turn on itself through the intermediary of the ‘subject’? What is the nature of the city as reality…” -Hubert Damisch
A Japanese photographer Takashi Homma created his own metropolis by compiling pinhole photographs from cities in Japan and the United States in his latest book, The Narcissistic City.
The process of photographing with a camera obscura requires exposure from a singular light source, perhaps a metaphorical spotlight on the buildings he was capturing. Narrowing the scope and giving the buildings undivided attention, Homma magnifies their ability to be self-absorbed.
The title of the book can lends itself to the lifestyle of the citizen’s in these cities, occupied with their own pace and practices— though it seems there is more room for a direct accusation that the buildings and landscapes themselves are aware of their grandiose beauty and personified as narcissists.
There is no sign of life in any of the images, only dark windows and ghostly silhouettes of architecture, which suggests the focus lays solely on the cityscape. Nearly all of the photos are shot from windows, therefore the common perspective provides the viewer with what the buildings see— almost as if the structures are looking at each other, eye to eye. By providing a perspective at this height, Homma ultimately eliminates the scope of the human inhabitants that would be walking the streets below. In his city, the skyline, distant landscape and living population are one in the same.
Alluring, narcissistic and lonely, but inextricably tied together image to image, the book feels like a conversation between city structures. Some panoramic scenes are pieced together with a red or blue hue, others contrasting in black and white. The subtle changes in coloring and collaging maintains the individuality of the images from locations thousands of miles apart (New York, Los Angeles, and Tokyo) yet there still stands a faint familiar feeling jumping from one skyline to the next.
Takashi Homma creates a sensual and mysterious version of a city where the boundaries are blurred and the apparitions of buildings seem reachable but remain solitary in their vastness. The Narcissistic City provides a transfixing perspective of the fixtures that live within each city's bounds.
The Narcissistic City by Takashi Homma published by MACK (not MACK Books) through to www.mackbooks.co.uk