Monday 13 November 2023

Further Research: Daido Moriyama

 Daido Moriyama is a Japanese Photographer who photographs the streets of Japan, he captures the darkness and underbelly of society which is why I was interested in looking at his work in relation to my own project Uncertain Times,  'Daidō Moriyama is a master in transforming the mundane into the remarkable.' (The Independent Photographer, 2021).  Moriyama started working as a photographer in the aftermath of the Second World War and like Lee Miller's images there is a darkness and horror that is underlying the shadow of such great destruction and death that is a presence in the images that he creates. Moriyama's street black and white, low key street images have an uncanny quality.  These high contrast images were created using a small compact Ricoh camera. It has been argued that Moriyama has rejected technical precision in favour of the subject; 'the artist captures a diaristic experience of wandering city streets. “The city has everything: comedy, tragedy, eulogy, eroticism,” he has remarked. “It is the ideal setting, the place where people’s desires are interwoven. It has remained and will always remain my natural element.”'(Artnet, 2023).  This idea of life in all its forms being shot, captured immortalised is what is important in these images, and considering the times we are in now, if I look at the city streets in Leicester there is a tragic and grimy quality to life as it descends through depression, poverty, madness, mental illness, drugs and alcohol as numbing agents to a world that has become very challenging to live in.  

Below in this image, at the forefront is a half-naked man creating a strange gesture with his hand, it is uncertain what this might mean, is he waving? Placing his hand to God? He displays his palm upwards, but to what purpose?  His face is covered, so that the eye of the camera does not see? Or because he does not want the world to see his face? The street behind him looks wet from rain and it looks cold, yet he only wears a pair of small shorts, he looks slightly undernourished and the man strangely squatting behind him, is he drinking from a bowl? - he also is not dressed and looks undernourished.  The street is dirty and the woman in the image standing in the doorway on the other side is wearing a shabby dress over a tight fitting vest that again displays bones and malnutrition.  her sharp face set off by a hat with a flower.  Is she a prostitute or a cleaner or maid?  The leading line stretching down the street reveals more people in a further doorway, what are they doing there?  Behind the man's head, there seems to be children and people waiting, maybe it is a bus stop of some kind.  The light in the image seems to be coming from an overcast sky and this uncanny scene does not seem to make much sense in the frame. The lightness of the men's skin against the blackness of the street create a balance of light and dark.

Moriyama was anti-establishment and his images in the 1960s and early 70s were of the street, prostitutes, gangsters, the homeless, the disenchanted, the forgotten, Tokyo Cowboy states; '[Moriyama] Snapping photos seemingly at random and exposing them hastily, he would churn out oddly cropped shots of Tokyo’s pedestrians, gangsters and prostitutes. This chaotic process added to the raw feeling in his work and provided a truly organic insight into Tokyo’s backstreets.' (tokyo cowboy, n.d.)  I do want to try to capture the raw feeling of the images shown here but also I wanted to also capture the kind of euphoria and mild hysteria people feel before the end and that is why I wanted to include the dancing, I definitely want this in the final film.

Jumping forward Moriyama created these strange dancing images for a fashion collection.  In both images the leading line follows the street into the distance, the built up city surrounds the subject. She/he stands alone in the street creating the same angular dancing shape. 'The figures often seem to be in a state of struggle, so that the backdrop enacts a complicated embrace – home, but the kind of home that thrusts the subject into a state of tension and even distress' (Katie Kitamaura, 2023).Both look downwards in a passive acceptance of the camera but not engaging directly in contact with the world.  The white/black high contrast works well with the fashion this is advertising and again as the street image above the white of the flesh contrasts heavily with the blackness of the street. Although these images are taken around 60 years apart and the method, camera and the street are different, there is a feeling that I am in the same streets with the same weather, the same feeling.


The Independent Photographer. (2021). Daidō Moriyama: Profile. [online] Available at: [Accessed 13 Nov. 2023].

Pulella, D. (2018). Daidō Moriyama, Streets of Japan • XIBT Contemporary Art Magazine. [online] XIBT. Available at: [Accessed 13 Nov. 2023].

Artrnet (2023). Daido Moriyama (Japanese, born 1938). [online] Available at: [Accessed 13 Nov. 2023].

tokyo cowboy. (n.d.). DAIDO MORIYAMA: Japan’s King of Street Photography. [online] Available at: [Accessed 13 Nov. 2023].

Katie Kitamaura (2023). Daido Moriyama Photographs Y-3’s New Collection on the Streets of Tokyo. [online] AnOther. Available at: [Accessed 13 Nov. 2023].

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