1938 · Japan
Daidō Moriyama is a Japanese photographer, who’s dark and gritty depictions of Japanese city life have gained him a reputation as one of Japan’s most important and influential artists. His earlier works, taken during the 1960s, document the American military occupation and the subsequent transformation of post-war Japan, focusing on the dissolution of traditional values and the process of modernisation.
Born in Osaka, Japan in 1938, Moriyama studied under the renowned photographer Takeji Iwamiya, before moving to Tokyo in 1961, where he worked as an assistant to Eikoh Hosoe and as a freelance photographer. During this time he produced the series ‘Nippon gekijō shashinchō’, which depicted the darker aspects of urban life and the parts of cities that would otherwise go unseen. He became a prominent figure in the ‘Provoke’ movement, which was encapsulated in the form of an experimental small-press magazine of the same name. Provoke aimed set itself apart from the photography style of the time by presenting grainy and disorderly images which contrasted greatly from the glossy imagery of commercial magazines. Despite running for only three issues, Provoke had a profound cultural influence and is said to have ‘spread a completely new idea of photography in Japan’.
In terms of his method, Moriyama uses a small hand-held automatic camera to capture snapshots in quick succession, often without paying attention to the viewfinder. This process, which gives unpredictable and fleeting results, aids his intention to explore themes such as the reliance of memory and of the role of the photographer. Stylistically, Moriyama works predominantly in black and white, and used high contrast and tilted angles to convey the fragmentary and chaotic nature of urban and industrialised life.
Throughout his prolific and successful career, Moriyama has produced a number of publications and has exhibited his work at a number of internationally renowned institutions such as the National Museum of Art in Osaka, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography. He has been officially recognised for his influential contributions to the field of photography, and was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Photographic Society of Japan in 2004.