The Photographers Gallery: Daido Moriyama Retrospective
Our favourite place to spend a lunch hour, this venue never disappoints. Currently showing is an exhilarating and thought-provoking retrospective of Daido Moriyama's work spanning his sixty-year career, from his early work in the late '60s to today. It's the first time the gallery has devoted all four floors to one artist, and the result is breathtaking. The enigmatic Japanese photographer challenges our perception of photography, and his work transcends the technical aspects of the art.
Inspired by the new breed of contemporary American artists like William Klein and Andy Warhol, it's impossible to avoid the feeling of just how ahead of his time he was as you wander through the gallery. Imperfection is embraced by Moriyama as his creative vision supersedes everything, relegating the technical nature of the photographic process in importance.
His gritty, blurred and distorted images, primarily shot in black and white, capture the dark side of urban life and always seem to communicate a sense of mystery. The close cropping, unexpected composition, and grid presentation often leave his images feeling raw and abstract.
The exhibition is largely a chronological journey covering his early development as a street photographer. Most photographs are arranged in groups and organised in grids, making it challenging to know where to start. The effect can be overwhelming; each frame offers a glimpse of post-war urban life through Moriyama's lens. The experimental compositions and black & white output make it difficult to have a sense of when and often where.
"I don't know if individual photographs contain ideas, worlds, history, humanity, beauty, ugliness or nothing at all. I actually do not really care. I just extract and record things around me, without any pretence." Daido Moriyama
Accident 6: Crash / Smash Up
Moriyama's Accident 6: Crash / Smash-up, 1969, was created by rephotographing and dissecting a police accident poster using high contrast. The effect is a series of graphic and arresting images of a crash and its aftermath. There is a conspicuous reference to Warhol, specifically his Silver Car Crash, 1963 and illustrates how contemporary artists influenced his work.
Farewell Photography, 1972
In 1972, Moriyama released a book titled 'Farwell Photography' which explored the essence of photography further by considering images that were usually rejected as photographic mistakes, such as poor focus, over/under exposure, or end of reel. These images question the notion of perfection in photography and why that is even important. Pushing the boundaries of photography resulted in a series of raw, distorted and experiemental images.
"I tried to dismantle photography but ended up being dismantled myself." Daido Moriyama.
The 2012 Labyrinth exhibition spanned from the 1960s to the 2000s. The images in the exhibition are displayed ignoring the original sequence of time and place. Not only is the non-linear approach unusual, it is exciting, visually stimulating and blends past, present and future.
Kiroku, translated as Record, was an independent magazine first published in 1972 to display personal Moriyama's experimental work. It was discontinued in 1973 but was relaunched in 2006 and continues today. There are now more than fifty editions, which act as a diary of Moriyama's work as a street photographer.
The whole retrospective is so brilliant that it's simply unmissable, whether you are familiar with Moriyama's work or not.
Daidō Moriyama: A Retrospective is at The Photographers' Gallery London, until 11 February 2024