KAWAU (HANON), 2015
My previous series, Tokyo Parrots (2013) has grown out of my interest in large flocks of wild parakeets which had become established and spread in Tokyo’s Setagaya ward. Ever since then, I have been fascinated by birds that persist and proliferate in urbanized environments. HANON, is my second series inspired by explosive population growth of birds in cities including Tokyo. With this work, I tried to highlight the issue of invasive birds in cities and to show images of urban landscape that is made surreal by their presence.
An angler whom I met during a shoot lamented, “The worst enemy of the Tama River is cormorants – they had wiped out fish population, which has led to the disappearance of floating islands. It has completely destroyed the landscape.” Since the 1980s, the great cormorant has been enjoying a population explosion in Japan thanks to the improved water quality and the protection of their colonies. The large rise in cormorant numbers has resulted in widespread problems, such as damage to the fishing industry, recreational fishing and other fauna and flora – cormorant droppings are so toxic that they destroy precious shoreline habitat and degrade water quality.
I happened to visit the Tama River and saw cormorants. Long before starting to work on this series, I had been quite interested in cormorant predation which had been frequently reported on television and in newspapers. So it was only natural for me to be completely intrigued by them. The spectacle of hundreds of birds lined up on overhead wires against the Tokyo sky seemed to me like a page from a book of Hanon exercises – as if the black birds themselves were music notes, making their music up above my head.
The sight of large flocks of cormorants in a city was incongruous and out of place. It appeared to be a kind of a grim warning to modern society.