Saturday, March 26, 2016


Daido Moriyama has been walking for more than 40 years. Each day the acclaimed Japanese photographer hits the streets of Tokyo, or another city, noticing something new, something unusual, which he captures with his camera.

Images by Daido Moriyama at the exhibition.
“It doesn’t tire me,” he said at the opening of an exhibition of his work in Paris. “A city is something that never stops, and my view constantly changes.”

The show, titled Daido Tokyo, runs at the Fondation Cartier for Contemporary Art until June 5 and focuses on Moriyama’s recent work, portraying the "disjunctive nature of the urban experience".

It features an extensive selection of colour photographs and also sheds light “on this lesser-known yet ubiquitous aspect" of Moriyama's photographic practice over the last two decades, say the curators (Hervé Chandès and Alexis Fabry).

But Moriyama's iconic black-and-white work is equally represented by a project that the Fondation Cartier commissioned specifically for the exhibition: a multi-screen projection of 291 black-and-white photographs called Dog and Mesh Tights, set to music by fellow artist Toshihiro Oshima.

Daido Moriyama (photo: McKenzie)
The slide show is aimed at “plunging viewers into the commotion of the contemporary City, capturing fragments of daily life from its unrelenting urban hustle and bustle,” the Fondation Cartier says.

It comprises images from each of the cities Moriyama traversed from July 2014 to March 2015: Tokyo, Hong Kong, Taipei, Arles, Houston and Los Angeles. People and objects in these urban settings evoke both intimacy and distance, suggesting a kind of isolation amidst the concrete and commotion.

Moriyama himself said that the slide show is like a “reset” in his career and that 85 percent of the photographs were taken in Tokyo.

A visitor views the photographs.
“When I finish walking in one direction, I turn back and go in the other direction,” he said through a translator. “Walking is my work and ultimately my life.

“I don’t hesitate when I come across something,” he added. “I don’t think of anything at the moment, and yet all my thoughts are focused on this one thing.”

Moriyma said that black-and-white is a “natural choice” for him, although he doesn’t see much difference in the techniques. But black-and-white photography has a certain “eroticism”, he said.

The colour pictures shown in the exhibition were mainly taken in Shinjuku, one of the most frenetic districts of Tokyo, and they conjure up different aspects of the busy, mysterious and “eternal shantytown”, as Moriyama calls it.

Moriyama takes a break (photo: McKenzie)
Writing in the catalogue to the exhibition, he says that his relationship with the area goes back almost forty years that that he still finds it “enigmatic”, something that obsesses him.

“I may position myself there as an observer, but every time I do so, Shinjuku hides its true nature like a chimera and throws my mental perspective into confusion, as if I had strayed into a labyrinth,” he says. “I certainly don’t hate the place – yet if asked if I truly love it, I sense I’d fall silent.”

For many critics, Moriyama’s work expresses the “conflicting realities of a society caught between tradition and modernity”, as the curators state. The photographer, like many others of his generation, has witnessed the sweeping changes that took place in post-World War II Japan, and he has sought to “invent a new visual language” to express this.

A reflection of urban landscapes at the show.
Born in 1938, Moriyama grew up in Osaka and studied graphic design there. He moved to Tokyo in 1961, following his studies and the decision to take up photography as a career.

He was influenced by various avant-garde photographers, and incorporated action elements into his work – walking through the streets of the city, using a small hand-held camera.

His early work was mainly in black and white, but in the 1970s he began experimenting with colour photography, and this interest grew with the development of digital cameras, according to the curators. Yet, many of the photographs that he shot in colour he converted to black and white, because of aesthetics.

“The black-and-white tells about my inner worlds, my emotions and deep feelings  … every day walking the streets of Tokyo or other cities, as a vagabond aimlessly,” he says. “The colour describes what I meet without any filters, and I like to record the instant for the way it looks to me.”

Leanne Sacramone, a curator (photo: McKenzie).
Some viewers may find that not much happens in Moriyama’s photographs – a single shoe lying in a gutter, a young man passing neon-lit billboards, a view of peeling, crumbling facades, a flower discarded on the sidewalk.

The images pull the gaze back, however, for a second and third look, while the airy space of the Fondation Cartier – with its tall windows and views of the street outside – adds to the resolutely urban atmosphere.

Leanne Sacramone, a curator at the Fondation, said that one of the most interesting things about Moriyama’s work is his portrayal of things that usually go unnoticed.

“You can find beauty in things that go unremarked,” she said. “And for him that’s important, because as he says, ‘in the blink of an eye, the world changes’. That’s what will strike most viewers – the fleeting pace of urban experiences.” – Tasshon.