Daidō Moriyama

Profile Daido Moriyama’s Tokyo

© Daidō Moriyama

“If you were to ask me to define a photograph in a few words, I would say it is “a fossil of light and time.” – Daidō Moriyama

─── by Edward Clay, July 28, 2020

Renowned for his images depicting the breakdown of traditional values in post-war Japan, Japanese photographer Daidō Moriyama is a master in transforming the mundane into the remarkable.

Black and White photography Daidō Moriyama
Untitled (Fish Head), Tsugaru Straits, 1978 © Daido Moriyama

Moriyama has spent his career traversing the streets of Japanese cities with a small compact Ricoh camera, producing high contrast, often blurry images which convey a sensation of movement and franticness that is immediately distinctive.

Casting his lens on the darker side of urban life, he has built a fragmented portrait of a bustling metropolis composed of peeling posters, empty backstreets, mannequins, and street signs, whilst punctuating his oeuvre with photos of people living on the fringes of society; prostitutes, the homeless, gangsters, and truants.

From the series 'Tokyo Color' (2008-15)
Stray Dog, Misawa, Aomori, 1971 © Daidō Moriyama
Tights Black and White photography Daidō Moriyama
Tights, Setagayaku-ku, Tokyo, 1990 © Daidō Moriyama

Influenced by William Klein, Moriyama’s gritty black-and-white aesthetic starkly contrasted the traditionally composed images of his European and American peers.

In the wake of a world in political torment, Moriyama used his camera, like many other brilliant photographers in the late 60s, to create anti-establishment work, and express discontent at the social restrictions imposed upon him.

© Nitesha, 2018

Rising to prominence after being featured in Japan’s iconic Provoke Magazine, a small-press independent publication based around dissident art, Daidō Moriyama has now cemented his name as one of the most important photographers to come out of Japan.

Man on train Black and White photography Daidō Moriyama
Man on train, date unknown © Daidō Moriyama
From the series 'Tokyo Color' (2008-15)
From the series 'Tokyo Color' (2008-15)

His unique style and lack of composition coupled with heavy grain results in work that is refreshingly modern, hard to place in time, a cacophony of harmonious chaos.

Zoku Nippon Gekijo Shashincho in Japan a Photo Theatre Black and White photography Daidō Moriyama
Zoku Nippon Gekijo Shashincho (Japan, a Photo Theatre II), 1978
Daido hysteric no. 6, 1994 © Daidō Moriyama
Tokyo, 1978, street photography by Daidō Moriyama, woman
© Daidō Moriyama

“With its indecency, hardness and disconsolateness, the city functions in strange ways and yet exposes itself as lively; it is almost a contemporary Babylon. I think that Shinjuku and I have a similar nature; perhaps that is the reason why I cannot help but be fascinated by it.”

© Daido Moriyama

Although his work has a poetic air of solitude about it Moriyama claims “If an image is good, it is brought back to life by the feelings of the viewer”, and what more truth lies in these provocative photographs.

All images ©
Daidō Moriyama

The Independent Photographer 2023 Black & White Award is open for entries until January 31. More info here.