daido moriyama

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by kei n., Jan 27, 2004.

  1. For anyone interested in the work of Daido Moriyama and/or Nobuyoshi Araki, there
    is a short, yet very interesting interview of the two at the following address:


    The interview is interesting in the way they relate to each other also. They are giants
    (not yet dinosaurs) in the history of Japanese photography and they seem to
    communicate quite directly with one another - no formalities here. Of particular
    interest is their thoughts on photography and violence at the end. These comments
    are difficult to even start thinking through - yet reveal a particular aspect of what
    many call the "shock" value of their photography (in there own respective ways of
    course - these two are not of the same taste in their photography). You may
    (probably will) find their comments disturbing, but I would be interested in hearing
    your thoughts.
  2. I know Moriyama's work and didn't find any of the comments particularly disturbing. So much great photography is provacative. Nan Golden, Larry Clark, Sarrano, etc. Certainly, Wegee in his day was shocking. Now, you see those sort of images on the evening news. There is a tradition in art to push up against the limits of the public's sensibilities. Is a sense of violence a component of this work? Sure. But it seems to me, given the the history of the world, particularly the 20th century to the present, there would be a disconnect if violence wasn't an intregal part of the visual arts.

    To my eye, I find many of Moriyama's images more threatening and mysterious than violent, but I like challenging work and have seen quite a bit of it. I'm interested in images that make viewers uneasy and am always curious as to why. For someone who mostly likes pretty pictures, these images might be difficult.

    Thanks for putting up the link.
  3. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    I'd agree that the interview is pretty non-disturbing. Photographs are usually more disturbing than interviews, although I think an interview with Charles Manson might be fairly disturbing, even today.

    Moriyama's work is amazing, a tremendous influence on me. Like so many of the post-WWII Japanese photographers, his work is reminiscent of the atomic bomb no matter what the subject. I don't know if anyone from his generation can get away from it.

    I'm waiting for the new book coming out this year...
  4. Jeff states: "Like so many of the post-WWII Japanese photographers, his work is reminiscent of the atomic bomb no matter what the subject. I don't know if anyone from his generation can get away from it."

    I find this a fascinating observation. It leaves me with two questions:

    1) It would never have occurred to me to see the bomb in these images. How do you relate the images and the bomb? Do others see it? (I am not arguing against the notion. Don't take this as doubt.)

    2) The comment seems to imply either a sort of collective unconscious created by the bomb or an unconscious layer that we apply to images created by Japanese photographers. Is it the former or latter, or some other mechanism entirely, that gives this echo of the bomb?
  5. Think of the magazine "Provoke" (to which Moriyama contributed) - they certainly felt
    the need to use an aestheticized form of violence to disturb people. This is one way
    of rationalizing the visceral level which Moriyama aims to hit at. However, in the
    interview, the rationalization is more psychological/personal - the feelings of envy,
    possession, jealousy and then all of them engendered in a burst of violence. This is
    related to the medium of photography itself as a practice - not in the social sense of
    provocation. It is in this sense that I find his comments disturbing (not bad, but
    disturbing) and interesting. Because this points to (for a lack of better words)
    something like a phenomenological experience of what it is to do photography - and
    it isn't pretty - it is a very amoral and estranged activity.

    This, of course, is nothing new to Moriyama fans. However, the reason I posted this
    was to point out something that I take to be a misunderstanding. Some people feel
    that Moriyama's aim is to provoke others - I think this interview shows that he aims to
    provoke himself. He has stated before that he has no interest in changing the world
    and his references to the activity of photography often point to a very personal
    experience. Hence, his indifference to more "humane" photographers in the strain of
    Robert Frank, Cartier-Bresson, etc.

    BTW, has anyone seen his color work?
  6. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    Responding to Ward...
    I first encountered Moriyama and Japanese photography in general when, about ten years ago, I ran into a copy of New Japanese Photography, which came out when MOMA ran an exhibition in 1974. I highly recommend this book, which is readily available for under $10.
    Some of the photos in the book are explicitly about the bomb - Tomatsu's shots of victims and the twisted bottle being the most well-known. However, every time I picked up the book and looked through the photos, I felt this common theme running through it, and it becomes obvious how so many of the photos, including Moriyama's, are about dislocation, disfigurement, black and white (in the harsh allegorical sense), a pervasive harshness. Whatever the subject, even when it's close to nature, there is an undercurrent of of disruption of the natural course of things.
    This is brought out even more by a book published in the last couple years called Modern Photography In Japan: 1915-1940. The difference between pre-war photography in Japan and post-war photography is striking. The earlier photographs are softer and infused with tradition. There is a lot of experimentation with technique, but it's closer to painting and photo pictorialism. If these two books are looked at in sequence (older images first), it's obvious something happened to Japan. Although the Western world also changed, much of the photography shows a continuous tradition rather than an abrupt change.
    Of course it's entirely possible that I am reading too much into this and creating the typical outsider's wrong-headed view. But I'm leaning away from that interpretation - there is an issue of Aperture titled Black Sun: The Eyes of Four, which also features Moriyama, and seems to make the same connection, although attributing some of what is seen to the inevitable Americanization that followed the war.
  7. I was introduced to Moriyama's work when I bought the '55' series book on him. I think Jeff's interpretation hits the nail on the head, especially in the sense that everything seems to have an apocalyptic edge to it without being too in-your-face. I'm definitely going to look for those book titles.
  8. Daido in Color??!! Where can it be seen?

    Thanks for the link to the interview.

    The effects of the war are very evident in their work. I also see reaction in their work to the westernization of Japan.

    Robbie Becklund
  9. I think anyone should be wary of jumping to the conclusion that "The effects of the
    war are very evident in their work. I also see reaction in their work to the
    westernization of Japan."

    For the generation that came before Moriyama (Hosoe, Tomatsu, Kawada, etc), the war
    was certainly evident. However, do not confuse the "apocalyptic" or "disruptive"
    aspects of their work to be connected mainly to the war or the bomb. There are
    various influences and problems which they were responding to photographically also.
    Remember that van der Elsken (with his grainy, expressive prints) was a hit with Eikoh
    Hosoe and others. Also William Klein - Moriyama himself has said that New York
    shook him to the marrow of his bones and showed him the freedom of
    photography. And then add Warhol's pop and political indifference and Kerouac too.

    I think Moriyama's central problems in photography were more directed towards a
    highly personal response to the medium of photography itself (ie. Farewell
    Photography and the issues of photograpy as original/copy). His photos of
    advertisements, movie scenes, blow ups of grain, unframed photos, etc were very
    much a response to a discussion on the medium that was happening in Japan at the
    time. For a very interesting interpretation of these problems, check out Moriyama's
    Platform. In this book, you can see Moriyama's references to Aget, Klein, and the
    history of photography as a more "postmodern" photographer (for lack of a better
    term - my apologies).

    Sorry for the long response - just think that Moriyama's photography is very complex
    and, though, consumerism and Westernization were highly charged issues in Japan
    in the 1960's and early 1970's, Moriyama was also dealing with other issues
    photographically. Moriyama himself has very ambivalent feelings about America and
    westernization. He is not for nor against, not here nor there on the issue.

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