Daidō Moriyama – Gritty, poetic photography

Living with a photographer has made me an unlikely student of street photography – and also a fan. One of the names that appears throughout our bookshelves and has been part of lots of conversations around our table is that of Daidō Moriyama (森山 大道) . Of course, Mauro and I had to go see his show together at the Maxxi Museum, taking our son who is another unlikely student (and sometimes subject) of street photography.

What struck me was how prolific this photographer is. Endless photos of his home city Tokyo, published in ongoing, unfussy magazines and books – show an insatiable passion. This can be felt throughout his work.

His work isn’t the clean and spotless tourist snaps of a place. The photographs, in his own words can be described as: ‘are, bure, bokeh‘, which translates to ‘grainy / rough, blurry, and out-of-focus.’ It made me reflect a bit on my desire to visit Tokyo, but also my own relationship with Rome. As an artist who lives in one of those destinations that are often portrayed in a type of ‘postcard glamour’, I know that the artist or photographer sees all angles of a place. Not just the sparkling, or the touristic – but all of the layers of time and space, the things that are not seen with the everyday eye. My husband’s photography shows me this again and again.

The curation of the show was suggestive and dynamic, a sort of cityscape. The meta-narrative of a grid told a three dimensional story of his work. Yellow walls were an incredible, a dramatic foil to the grit. Stacked grids of photos were especially evocative, as were walls papered with photographs as if ads on a city wall with fine art framed photos hung on them. The show shifted minimal to maximal treatments of the photos, which spoke to my soul, as did the neon signage, often reflected on the glass frames of the photographs.

Finally, a lasting reminder lingers with me from the show. Moriyama described that it doesn’t matter what you use to create, a professional camera or a cheap hand-me-down; it’s the fact that you create. The frequent contact with the medium, the subject, his practice – accumulate over time, seasoning his work and giving it a wordless richness of meaning.

This morning, as a started a new collage as a do each day, I couldn’t help but hear Moriyama’s words in my mind.