Beyond the City’s Limits

From aerial perspectives to poetic pauses, explore four cities through the eyes of five photographers.

From aerial perspectives to poetic pauses, explore four cities through the eyes of five photographers.

Thierry Cohen, New York 40° 42’ 16’’ N 2010-10-09 LST 3:40 from Darkened Cities, 2010. Estimate £20,000 - 30,000. Photographs London.


As much as people define cities, cities influence the people who inhabit them. In our upcoming Photographs auction, Naoya Hatakeyama, Thierry Cohen, Saul Leiter, Sohei Nishino, and Fernell Franco tackle this mutual impact, representing the specific conundrums of modern life. From aerial perspectives to poetic pauses, we are transported from Osaka to New York to London to Cali, accompanied by all the emptiness, power, and privacy each city holds. Read on to discover their unique approaches to city-dwelling—and do a bit of armchair traveling. 


Naoya Hatakeyama, Untitled/Osaka, 1998-1999. Estimate £15,000 - 25,000. Photographs London. 

In his powerful explorations of landscape, Naoya Hatakeyama traces human participation in both urban and rural settings. Even seemingly organic environments have been shaped and transformed by human activity—and Hatakeyama’s work breaks down the dichotomy of countryside and city, showing how they mirror each other. Recalling a flight over Tokyo, Hatakeyama has said that it reminded him of the limestone quarries throughout Japan. “The uneven white scene spreading endlessly was not the limestone I had seen in the mine, but the buildings of the city of Tokyo,” he explained. “It suddenly appeared to me that the minerals in the huge emptiness had not simply disappeared but were carried all the way here to be transformed and exist right in front of me.”

In Untitled/Osaka, Hatakeyama depicts a repurposed baseball stadium in Japan’s second-largest city. The stadium is depicted in two states: as a model-home exhibition resembling a miniature residential neighborhood and in its subsequent demolition. While the stadium is not being used for its intended sport, the human impact of Untitled/Osaka feels akin to tilling land, building it up, breaking it down, in a cycle of activity.



Thierry CohenNew York 40° 42’ 16’’ N 2010-10-09 LST 3:40 from Darkened Cities, 2010. Estimate £20,000 - 30,000. Photographs London. 

Thierry Cohen and Saul Leiter here each depict New York—one version is invisible, the other detectable but fleeting. Cohen’s New York, as portrayed in New York 40° 42’ 16’’ N 2010-10-09 LST 3:40, combines the iconic Brooklyn Bridge (captured by day and darkened through a variety of techniques) with the starry sky from the Black Rock Desert in Nevada. Crucially, Cohen points out that this New York—the one that is dazzlingly dressed with constellations—is not a fantasy. “By combining two realities, I am making a third that you cannot see,” he has clarified. “but it exists! I am showing you the missing stars.”

Saul Leiter, Snow, 1970. Estimate £15,000 - 25,000. Photographs London. 

In contrast, Saul Leiter’s Snow expresses New York as it does exist: the inclement weather, a window wet with condensation, the blurriness of life lived at the city’s breakneck pace. But within that mundane blur, Leiter preserved and beautified. Uncovering the poetry in everyday life, Leiter created a distinctive visual language that inclines towards abstraction, dashing his photographs with lyricism and flashes of color. In his use of the foggy window, Leiter also captures the simultaneously incredibly private and public aspects of New York life—that even the most anonymous, casual act may be caught in someone’s periphery.



Sohei NishinoDiorama Map London, 2010. Estimate £50,000 - 70,000. Photographs London. 

To produce his Diorama Maps, Sohei Nishino walked through cities capturing fragments from various angles—his aim was not to create a useable map but a human one. For London, Nishino spent a month wandering the city; he ultimately accumulated over 10,000 photographs that he edited down, affixed to a board, and then re-photographed over the course of three months. The product, like the process, reflects the coincidences, combinations, and curiosity of strolling a city by foot. Imbued with the wonder of Renaissance-era maps, Nishino’s London invites us to observe landmarks with a new inquisitiveness and accidental discovery. As he has emphasized, “I…combine, one by one, in accordance with my memories, arranging them into a map that portrays all the singular aspects of the place.”



Fernell Franco, Interiores, 1970-1975. Estimate £10,000 - 15,000. Photographs London.

“In Cali the intensity of the sunlight makes one understand the importance and the truth of shadow…” described Fernell Franco. “Here you are always adjusting your eyes to the contrast, whether from light to darkness or from darkness to light.” In Interiores, Franco masterfully captures light streaming through the windows of an eerie, absent living space. With some beds drenched in shadow and one with the sheets crumpled, the room evokes the specter of abandonment.

Franco was fascinated by interiors—as reflections of the people who inhabited them, as well as the larger city. The Interiores series, for example, was a means of exploring and capturing his impressions of Cali, the rapidly changing city where he spent most of his life. Over the course of a decade, Franco photographed old mansions and tenements that had been converted into boarding houses. This image, with its intense chiaroscuro and carefully applied watercolor, is full of narratives. As Franco insisted, “Each one recounts something. The architecture, the beds, the spaces, they all have their story."



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