This week has been most splendid and I would hope the same can be said for anyone reading this. The weather was fine, the mood productive and festive (being in the Netherlands during the national Queensday celebrations) and there were even some cultural outings to be had. The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam has been re-opened after a 10 year renovation period so it was time for a visit. The paintings are gorgeous and should be the main purpose of going as for photography there is really not much to be had in this place; the few prints on display by Man Ray and Josef Breitenbach are nice though. This week however, we’ll be looking at a Japanese photographer.
Daidō Moriyama (森山 大道 Moriyama Daidō, was born on the 10th of October 1938, in Ikeda, Osaka. Earlier, well-informed Japanese publications give “Hiromichi Moriyama” as the romanized form of his name. His twin brother would die when he was only two years old. As a child, he and his family relocated frequently and as a result he developed a lifelong habit of wandering about. Moriyama studied photography under Takeji Iwamiya before moving to Tokyo in 1961 to work as an assistant to Eikoh Hosoe. He produced a collection of photographs, Nippon gekijō shashinchō, which showed the darker sides of urban life and the less-seen parts of cities. In them, he attempted to show how life in certain areas was being left behind the other industrialised parts.
Moriyama’s photography has been influenced by Seiryū Inoue, Shōmei Tōmatsu, William Klein, Andy Warhol, Eikoh Hosoe, the Japanese writer Yukio Mishima, the dramatist Shūji Terayama, and Jack Kerouac’s On the Road.
Though not exclusively, Moriyama predominantly takes high contrast, grainy, black and white photographs within the Shinjuku area of Tokyo, often shot from odd angles with a small compact camera. This used to be a Ricoh film compact camera which he got as a gift, but he has since moved on to digital. The colour images are later turned into black and white images on a computer. Here, any required alterations are made to the image, including cropping. The main reasons for choosing such a camera is the size, it’s considered less serious and therefore less threatening when photographing people in the street. You don’t have to fumble around with settings or hold it up to you eye, which can also scare people off. But basically, any camera is fine; it’s only the means of taking a photo.
After nearly 50 years as a photographer, Moriyama’s practice still hinges on this daily activity of strolling the city streets near his home. Most of his images he refers to as snapshots – seen and taken almost without pauze – as the movement both his subject and himself bring into the image makes them somehow more real or as he puts it: “taking a slice from time”. He’s had over a hundred solo exhibitions and published an impressive number of books.
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