1965~ - Daido Moriyama

Weekday 11:00 - 20:00

Saturdays and Holidays 11:00 - 18:30

Sundays and Mondays Closed(Except for 2013.7.15)

Entrance Fee 800 yen for over 18


Daido Moriyama
Journey through a labyrinth

I have been viewing Daido Moriyama's photographs since the latter half of the 1960s. From memory, the first examples of his work I saw were plates in a photograph section of Asahi Camera or Camera Mainichi. I remember that the pages featuring his work alone had a peculiar tactile quality, as if they were covered in grains as black as the dark of night.

Since then I have encountered his photographs any number of times in photo-books and at photography exhibitions, and have experienced just about every emotion imaginable as a result, including being attracted to them, repulsed by them, overwhelmed by them, and infatuated with them. Today the texture of his monochrome prints framed with strongly contrasting light and dark has knitted with and become ingrown into my visual memory, so that it triggers a sense of déjà vu. So much so that sometimes when I see a poster on the street featuring an image of a voluptuous woman or spot an object with a rough texture I find myself inadvertently looking at these things translated into the style of Moriyama's photographs.

There was one occasion in particular on which I came to realize just how peculiar the visual experience of Moriyama's photography, to which my eyes had grown completely accustomed, was. This was the “William Klein + Daido Moriyama” exhibition held from 10 October 2012 to 20 January 2013 at Tate Modern in London. As has often been pointed out, Moriyama's debut photo-book, Japan, A Photo Theater (1968), was heavily influenced by Klein's New York (1956), and Moriyama himself has said on a number of occasions that Klein is “the photographer I admire the most.” Despite this, as I wandered around the exhibition venue, I could not help but be struck at the differences between these two photographers.

Contrary to its anarchic outward appearance, Klein's photographic world, which emerged out of the "four city" series of New York, Rome, Moscow and Tokyo published between 1956 and 1964, was in fact logical and architectural and dynamically structured. However, upon entering the room where Moriyama's work was exhibited after viewing Klein's work, I got a completely different impression. I felt there was something disquieting or ominous about Moriyama's work, as if the ground on which the audience stood had been undermined, leaving them hanging in midair.

Here, I would like to reconsider the distinguishing characteristics of Moriyama's photographic world from three angles: namely, “dampness,” “a floating feeling,” and “sectionalization/fragmentation.” When I look at Moriyama's photographs, I feel as if I am wrapped in the kind of clammy, heavy air tinged with dampness that we experience during the rainy season. This is particularly the case with the close-ups of lips that he enjoys shooting, but there are many other photographs in which a glistening layer of water seems to permeate the entire surface. The hair and flora that appear often in his photographs, almost as if they are an obsession, also sometimes look as if they are streaming in water.

The high humidity level of Moriyama's photographs is undoubtedly due to the fact that he works mainly in Japan, which has an Asian-type monsoon climate. With plenty of rain and snow, the landscape of this region is always tinged with dampness, and photographers go about their work as if floating in water. Perhaps Moriyama even senses that his own body has been liquefied and freed from the yoke of gravity. In such an environment, one even loses one's sense of direction it terms of one's relative position. Perhaps this is the source of the floating feeling of Moriyama's photographs, which seem to drift airily in space, and of the elusiveness of the things in them.

Looking at Moriyama's photographs, I sometimes begin to doubt if the things or people depicted in them were really there. In principle, photography is a contrivance that captures things that “were there.” Moreover, because Moriyama is essentially a “straight photographer,“ he doesn't process his images or use montage, for example (although I cannot say for certain that he has never used such techniques). This being the case, why is it that sometimes the things in his photographs take on the appearance of faint illusions devoid of a firm sense of reality? In Moriyama's photographs, reality and illusion are constantly struggling against each other, and occasionally the relationship between the two is reversed so that the latter becomes dominant.

One thing that may have fostered this tendency is Moriyama's almost magical technique of sectionalization/fragmentation. Looking at his photographs, one realizes that in barely any of them is the subject completely visible in its entirety. In the case of people, the face is hidden or the trunk is cut down the middle. Often a part of the subject is protruding from the frame. As a result, the things depicted in these photographs appear to have been flung in front of the viewer's eyes as simply "material," with no effort having been made to determine exactly what they are.

This should be clear if one looks at the images of tires that often appear in Moriyama's photographs. Here, the tires are detached from the mechanism of the automobile as a means of transporting people of things and emerge out of the darkness as masses made of steel and rubber with textures so rough one is tempted to call them violent. They are no longer the tires that are already familiar to us, but have been separated from the real world and transformed into the kinds of images that we have encountered again and again in our dreams, images that are vague yet leave a strong impression and refuse to go away.

Moriyama's adherence to “sectionalization/fragmentation” was brought home to me afresh when I saw the “Labyrinth” exhibition held at the BLD Gallery in Ginza, Tokyo from September to November 2012. At this exhibition, which featured a selection of the contact prints Moriyama shot between the 1960s and the 2000s that had simply been enlarged for display purposes, the way he looks at his subjects stood out more clearly than ever. The large number of close-ups is probably due to the fact that his gaze is drawn not so much to the whole but to details. Moreover, in most cases he releases the shutter any number of times without pausing. Sometimes, as is the case with that memorable series of photographs of his girlfriend's legs in fishnet stockings (1986), he even uses up several rolls of film shooting the same subject from various different angles.

In the photo-book published to coincide with this exhibition, Labyrinth (Akio Nagasawa Publishing), Moriyama makes the following comment:

“Whoever it is that I am looking for has yet to reveal themselves, so I continue my journey.
Each day is a journey of the mind and body through a labyrinth.
Sometimes my steps follow a path.
Other times, I find myself wandering.
Like scattered pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, never finding resolution.”

That's right. In short, Moriyama's photographs are an accumulation of his work of tirelessly putting together the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. At first sight it looks like a scattering of disjointed pieces, but if he persists in putting these pieces together, perhaps some extraordinarily large pattern will reveal itself. Of course, as Moriyama accurately recognizes, this work is probably destined to end in “never finding resolution.” But perhaps that in itself is enough. Because the images this lone photographer, relying on nothing but his eye and his camera, has snatched after stepping into the “labyrinth” have the potential to stop us in our tracks at any time and shake us to the core.



Daido Moriyama

Born 1938 in Osaka. Worked at a commercial design company while attending high school, and then as a freelance graphic designer. Prompted by meeting the photographer Takeji Iwamiya, Moriyama plunged into the world photography in 1960, at the age of 22. He set off for Tokyo the following year, and after working as an assistant to Eikoh Hosoe, established himself as an independent photographer in 1964. His works appeared successively in photo magazines the likes of Camera Mainichi, AsahiGraph, and Asahi Camera, and in 1967, he received the New Artist Award from the Japan Photo-Critics Association for Japan: A Photo Theater.
Among his best-known photography collections are Farewell Photography (1972), Light and Shadow (1982), Daido-hysteric (1993-97), and Shinjuku (2002). He remains tirelessly active shooting and showing around the world, as evidenced in his recent exhibition "William Klein + Daido Moriyama" at Tate Modern, London.

book information

To coincide with the opening of Daido Moriyama’s photography exhibition “1965~,” the photography book Daido Moriyama is now available. For Moriyama, the city was a single vast object of desire, and the world something that loomed erotically. This catalogue contains 106 pictures that trace the career of a photographer who sought in each moment his own desire and never ceased questioning in a radical manner “What is photography?”

Daido Moriyama: 1965~
Published by 916Press & Akaaka
¥3,465( with Tax )


Daido Moriyama

Date : 1 June, 2013 - 20 July, 2013
Time : Weekday 11:00 - 20:00 / Saturdays and Holidays 11:00 - 18:30
Closed : Sundays and Mondays (Except for 2013.7.15)

Daido Moriyama, the photographs For enquiries regarding
the purchase of the photographs, please contact the gallery.
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