Tokyo, 1981, from the series Counting Grains of Sand 1976–1989
A city in constant flux, Tokyo has been an enduring subject in Japanese art, often treated serially by print artists and photographers. Like Moriyama Daido’s jarring compositions, Tsuchida Hiromi’s intensive exploration of crowds serves as both a record and a representation of a particular place and time. Struck especially by the extraordinary density of the urban population, Tsuchida began observing large gatherings of people in public spaces throughout Tokyo and the greater metropolitan region, resulting in the Counting Grains of Sand series, comprising more than seventy images taken from 1976 to 1989.
Tsuchida’s views of different crowds—men in a public park hunched over games of shogi (a form of chess) while folk dancers perform in the distance, a group watching a parade at Nihonbashi, dispersed individuals waiting for a graduation ceremony at the National Defense Academy in Yokosuka, or workers gathering for May Day festivities—makes palpable the sense of anonymity and fragmentation that characterizes modern society. The group culminates with a photograph of hundreds of people watching a summer concert at the Oiso Prince Hotel in Kanagawa. Across these five images, the absence of the central activity within the frame shifts the viewer’s attention to the character of the crowds themselves and the underlying tension inherent in modern urban life.