Every once in a while a book comes along that
just makes me stop for a bit. Not just because the photography is so beautiful,
but because this book is saying something completely new and unique. It has its
own view on the world and I want to see more.
TTP (Tischtennisplatte is German for table tennis
table) is basically the life of a communal ping pong table in Leipzig, Germany.
From August 2011, photography student Hayahisa Tomiyasu spent five years
focusing (his mind and camera) on this single table and photographing the
interactions going on with and around it. Which in none of the published images
is actually ping pong!
Tomiyasu wanted to find the object’s potential.
“It shows how many possibilities the table has in itself. I'm interested in
photographing an object you see every day, and how people behave around that
object in a public space.”
Slowly this project took over his life “It was
very strange - most things seemed to happen if I had something to do. If I was
going out and people came to the ping pong table, often I had to cancel my
appointment. I tried to be there always, every day, also at Christmas and New
Year, to not miss what was happening.” In total he must have taken about 4,000
In many ways TTP shows the creativity of people;
how each individual can see an object and interpret its use to fit their needs
at that moment. We see it as a changing table, a picnic spot, a romantic
meeting place, a surface for sorting laundry, an exercise area… and then
there's the strange naked guy with the bottle of beer...
This interaction between people and communal
space and objects was especially of interest to Tomiyasu as a Japanese student
observing German culture and trying to understand its social codes. “I was
living in a student dorm where we didn't talk to each other often, not even a
greeting. So, as a foreigner, it gave me a way to understand how people think
and behave. For me, it was ‘Ah, OK, yeah.”
TTP was released in early 2018 as the winner of
the prestigious 2018 MACK First Book Award. It was renowned Japanese
photographer Takeshi Homma (Tokyo Suburbia) who nominated Tomiyasu for the
award: “I'm interested in fixed-point photography because I'm also doing that.
Hayahisa Tomiyasu does the best fixed-point observation I have ever seen - I'm
For me, one of the things that draws me in to
this publication is the way that it reads like a story. I feel compelled to
turn the page to see what happens next - who will arrive and what will they do?
And with that strange feeling of being a voyeur I wonder if they will know that
I/ the camera is watching them… in one capture there is a couple seated on the
table and the man seems to be pointing directly at us. But Tomiyasu kept the
camera hidden at all times: he included this image to stimulate debate about
voyeurism, performance and artifice.
While Tomiyasu has managed to sequence the images
so that the viewer reads it as a story, he says “I arranged the book according
to association, to similarities. I did not order it chronologically but like a
tale: I wanted to see if you could create a small history out of reality. It's
not a normal photobook, but like a novel that you can read.”
Words by Sara McCarter
Quotes taken from The Observer interview withHayahisa Tomiyasu by Kathryn Bromwich. Opinion is my own :)
Have you ‘read’ TTP and what did you think?