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 images.
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 jealous.”
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?