Photo Essays

Dizzying Dioramas of the World’s Major Cities

"Diorama Map Berlin" (2012) by Sohei Nishino (Image courtesy of Michael Hoppen Gallery)
Sohei Nishino, “Diorama Map Berlin” (2012) (All images courtesy of Michael Hoppen Gallery)

Picture your hometown. What does it look like in your mind? Can you mentally map its streets, its parks, its landmarks? And if compared to a real map, how would your vision fare?

Photographer Sohei Nishino grew up in Osaka, Japan. In 2005, he revisited the city and spent a week wandering on foot and taking pictures. After breezing through 150 rolls of film, he collaged the photographs into a single image. The resulting aerial view is inspired by the 18th-century cartographer Inō Tadataka, but it is less a map than a memory, reflecting an intimate impression of Osaka that is Noshino’s and no one else’s.

Since then, the photographer has repeated his experiment in Tokyo, Kyoto, Hiroshima, Shanghai, New York, Paris, Hong Kong, London, Istanbul, Rio de Janeiro, and Berlin. After flying into a city, he usually dedicates a month to roaming on foot and shooting film. He then spends several more months painstakingly arranging pictures into an eye-boggling “Diorama Map,” which he photographs.

“Through the eyes of an outsider [the Diorama Map] will be the embodiment of how I remember the city, and a diary of the streets I walk,” Nishino explains of the images in the series, now on view at Michael Hoppen Contemporary. Seen together, they are a love letter to the city’s streets — a place where one can, as Charles Baudelaire wrote, “be away from home and yet … feel oneself everywhere at home.”

"Diorama Map Tokyo" (2014) by Sohei Nishino (Image courtesy of Michael Hoppen Gallery)
Sohei Nishino, “Diorama Map Tokyo” (2014)
"Diorama Map Rio de Janeiro" (2011) by Sohei Nishino (Image courtesy of Michael Hoppen Gallery)
Sohei Nishino, “Diorama Map Rio de Janeiro” (2011)
"Diorama Map Jerusalem" (2012–2013) by Sohei Nishino (Image courtesy of Michael Hoppen Gallery)
Sohei Nishino, “Diorama Map Jerusalem” (2012–2013)
Detail of "Diorama Map New Delhi" (2013) by Sohei Nishino (Image courtesy of Michael Hoppen Gallery)
Sohei Nishino, Detail of “Diorama Map New Delhi” (2013) by Sohei Nishino
"Diorama Map Amsterdam" (2014) by Sohei Nishino (Image courtesy of Michael Hoppen Gallery)
Sohei Nishino, “Diorama Map Amsterdam” (2014) )
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