Hayahisa Tomiyasu spent four years photographing one ping pong table from his window
- Lucy Bourton
- 25 January 2019
For four years, photographer Hayahisa Tomiyasu spent each day staring out his window patiently observing the goings on of a courtyard adjacent to his bedroom. Over the days, months and years it transpired that residents and passersby seemed to naturally gravitate towards one particular ping pong table in the middle of the courtyard, opposite his Leipzig apartment. Hayahisa began to take shots of these leisurely happenings, but the photographer wasn’t actually looking to create a series observing everyday life – he was waiting to see a fox.
“It was on Sunday, August 14, 2011, that I took a walk around 3pm,” reads the text Hayahisa uses to explain the context of this project and subsequent book, TTP. During his walk, Hayahisa spotted a fox a short distance away from him, “it probably did not notice me or chose to ignore my presence,” he describes. “Its eyes were closed and it was sniffing the stones between the sidewalk and the adjacent lawn.” Transfixed, Hayahisa continued to watch as the fox “did its business” and then rushed off and “speedily proceeded towards the nearby shrubbery,” the photographer recalls. “Shortly before vanishing into the bushes it stopped and glanced in my direction. The tip of its tail was glowing white.”
A week or so later, still thinking about the fox, Hayahisa ran to the window of his then student apartment located on the eighth floor looking south. “In front of the building was an athletic field. Located on the right were an indoor swimming pool and a small soccer field, adjacent to a gym. To the left was a sandpit, a running track, another larger soccer field and a ping pong table,” he describes. On the athletic field, seemingly by chance, he spotted a fox “calming crossing the sandpit and the running track,” the photographer continues. “He stopped right before passing the ping pong table and lifted its head to look at it. Then he went on and left the field.” For the next four years, Hayahisa waited for the fox to return and “slowly but surely I started to observe the ping pong table,” just as the fox did. Although waiting for it from 2012 to 2016, the fox never appeared again.
On the process of this photography project over four years, Hayahisa explains it pretty much took over his life. “I had tried at that time to be in my room as much as possible,” he tells It’s Nice That. “So, sometimes I had to cancel my appointments whenever someone appeared to be there. Also at Christmas and New Year, I stayed in my room, not to pass any moments at the table.” In terms of actually taking the photographs, Hayahisa often changed his position, moving from left to right depending “on the people at the table”. No matter the time of day or weather, the photographer “tried to be there always” and, it seems, something was always happening.
A project of social commentary, as well as slight photographic and observational obsession, not to mention a mediation foxes’ behavioural habits, the repetitive nature of Hayahisa series went on to pique the interest of publishers Mack books and was the first publication to win its book award last year. The project continues to be a talking point for the photographer too, holding an exhibition of the works at Galerie b2 in Leipzig in November and regularly speaking about its process and book in presentations too.
About the Author
Lucy (she/her) joined It’s Nice That as a staff writer in July 2016 after graduating from Chelsea College of Art. In January 2019 she was made deputy editor and in November 2021, became a senior editor predominantly working on It’s Nice That's partnerships. Feel free to get in contact with Lucy about creative projects for the site or potential partnerships.