Photo: From Tokyo Color (2008-2015) featured in the book Daido Tokyo, Daido Moriyama, C-print, 111.5 x 149 cm.
“If you were to ask me to define a photograph in a few words, I would say it is a fossil of light and time,” observes Daido Moriyama. “When I take photographs my body inevitably enters a trancelike state. Briskly weaving my way through the avenues, every cell in my body becomes as sensitive as radar, responsive to the life of the streets… If I were to give it words, I would say: ‘I have no choice… I have to shoot this… I can’t leave this place for another’s eyes… I have to shoot it… I have no choice.’ An endless, murmuring refrain.”
Born in 1938 in Osaka, Japan, Daido Moriyama has risen to become one of the most pre-eminent fine-art photographers working today. He began his career as a freelance photographer in 1964, frequently shooting around the American military base in Yokosuka. He began publishing books and showing his work in 1968, and by 1974, his work was being show at the Museum of Modern Art, NY.
As witness to the changes that transformed Japan after World War II, Moriyama’s photographs expose a side of his native land that few outsiders know. With the development of cities and the cold, brutality of urban life, Moriyama’s work reveals the darker side of Japanese life. Occupying a space between reality and illusion, Moriyama’s grainy black-and-white photographs take on a surreal effect, showing us the intense, chaotic nature of the world in which we live.
Less well known is Moriyama’s color work, which is featured alongside his black and whites in the sumptuous new monograph, Daido Tokyo (Thames & Hudson). Here, the photographer takes us into Shinjuku, a seedy neighborhood that his captivated his imagination for over four decades. A major commercial and administrative center, home to the busiest railway station in the world, Shinjuku has an estimated population density of 18.5K people per km.
Moriyama writes in the book, “Shinjuku is imbued with a mystifying narcotic essence, and took me hostage with no possibility of escape.” This sensibility pervades each and every frame. Daido, Tokyo is a rich, intimate volume that weaves a spell, luring you into it quietly captivating world of light, texture, and form, provoking the deep, sensual pleasure of sight, reminding us that the artist is a heady combination of eye and mind.
Moriyama concludes, “Light and shade, obverse and reverse, truth and falsehood: each accompanies the other. And just as blighted areas exist in everyone’ heart, cities also need places of evil. An elusive labyrinth, a modern Babylon, scabrous, smarting, yet soothing. The fact that I am spellbound to shoot Shijnuku surely shows that we are one in the same.”
All photos: Photographs by Daido Moriyama, © Daido Moriyama Photo Foundation.
Miss Rosen is a New York-based writer, curator, and brand strategist. There is nothing she adores so much as photography and books. A small part of her wishes she had a proper library, like in the game of Clue. Then she could blaze and write soliloquies to her in and out of print loves.