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Blog: Inspiration Between the Lines

Hiroyuki Ito: Astoria & Peruvian Sandwich

Hiroyuki Ito’s exhibition, Peruvian Sandwich, a commercial assignment that turned into a rapturous documentary exposition, captures the movement of culture and people in the city of Lima, Peru. Originally hired for a one-week assignment to photograph a contingent of chain restaurants specializing in Peruvian sandwiches, Ito quickly realized the limited possibilities of such a task. “At the end of the second day, I was already running out of my visual vocabularies. There’s only so much you can do when photographing as many branches of the same chain restaurant. Imagine visiting KFC in 10 different locations in Manhattan, you get more of the same after a while,” he writes in his artist statement.

IMAGE 1: Peruvian Sandwich series by Hiroyuki Ito


A regular contributor to the New York Times for nearly two decades, Ito knew he needed to broaden his focus. He convinced his corporate clients that adding context to the assignment—landscapes and cityscapes—would give it more flavor. However, they agreed on one caveat that proved to be deeply enriching to the project as a whole. Ito had to include photographs of the private lives of some of the young employees that worked in the restaurants. To that end, he followed a young woman named Anna on her bus commute; shot Guido getting ready for work; and invited himself to a Christmas party with Vanessa. The trust and willingness of Ito’s subjects to welcome him into their lives is evident in the intimacy of many of the images.

Peruvian Sandwich series by Hiroyuki Ito


The time constraint of one week paired with the pulse of Lima as an urban metropolis, the capital and largest city in Peru, is also palpable in the series. Excitement, intensity and intimacy are evoked in each scene that Ito frames. His own immersion in the energy of the city seems to propel the work. From landscapes, city dwellers and bus riders to restaurant workers in kitchen whites, a sense of emotional fervor is compellingly translated through Ito’s eye and amplified through the black and white photographs.

Peruvian Sandwich series by Hiroyuki Ito


Peruvian Sandwich is paired with another series of work by Ito, Astoria, offering a distinct contrast. Quiet, sleepy photographs of Astoria, Queens shot in color take the emotional vibrancy of Lima down several notches. A greater sense of dislocation and detachment can be felt in the series, while simultaneously reflecting a freely roaming eye devoid of a client or the parameters of time.

Astoria series by Hiroyuki Ito

Hiroyuki Ito: Astoria & Peruvian Sandwich is on view at the Department of Photography & Imaging Galleries at New York University, Tisch School of the Arts through September 20, 2019.

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