Daido Moriyama was born in 1938 in Osaka, where he studied photography before moving to Tokyo in 1961. There, having worked as an assistant to photographer and filmmaker Eikoh Hosoe, Moriyama began to produce his own collection of photographs depicting the forgotten areas and darker sides of his home. Shortly afterwards, he was awarded the New Artist Award from the Japan Photo-Critics Association; the first of many lifetime awards.
Many of his early photographs were influenced by the ‘Provoke’ group which published three magazines illustrated almost entirely with photography. Moriyama joined the movement for the second issue of the magazine which, in addition to its political aims, came to solidify a type of Japanese aesthetic for ‘grainy, blurry and out of focus’ images, embracing a tradition of experimental image making and rebellion against the technical precision promoted by the culture of the time.
Moriyama’s work is predominantly black and white, and whilst the grainy aesthetic very much reflects his feelings about the destabilization of social structures after the war, his work is primarily about the use of photography as experiment. His pictures hover between the realm of document and possibility, between fact and fiction.
His early work captures life during and following the American occupation of Japan after World War II; in particular the effects of industrialisation and the consequential shift in urban life in which some areas were left behind the rapidly changing city.
Whilst Moriyama was influenced by a variety of artists, Andy Warhol may be the most important of these. He first saw Warhol’s silkscreens in 1969 on a visit to New York and perceived in them the essence of duplication, repetition and mass production essential to photography. Moriyama went on to make silkscreens of his own, but also made reproduction and duplication a primary focal point of his work, often photographing street signs, or making many versions of similar images to be seen as one.
Two of Moriyama’s most iconic motifs which reflect this theme are his images of tights and of lips. These gelatin silver prints combine close-ups with Moriyama’s penchant for reproduction and making pictures of street signs. Both themes hint toward the Americanisation of Japanese culture and the increased eroticism in high-street advertising.