Daido Moriyama returns to Shinjuku
Photographer returns to Shinjuku to create new series of work for first show at Fondation Cartier in 12 years
When the eminent Japanese photographer Daido Moriyama emerged in the mid-1960s photography was still widely considered to be be an objective medium. One expected it to give a reliable account of external conditions, no matter how distinctive or subjective the photographer's point of view may be. As a true radical and innovator however, Moriyama quickly broke with these unrealistic expectations. And almost from the outset he questioned what constitutes acceptable subject matter.
Like many other photographers of his generation, Moriyama had witnessed the dramatic changes that took place in Japan in the decades following World War II. In response, he sought to invent a new visual language to express the conflicting realities of a society caught between tradition and modernity.
He's not been in the news for some time but now, twelve years after his first exhibition at the Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain in 2003, Moriyama has returned to the foundation for a new exhibition that focuses on his most recent work. Featuring a large selection of colour photographs, Daido Tokyo will shed light on this lesser-known yet still ubiquitous aspect of his photographic practice over the last two decades.
The Fondation Cartier has also commissioned a new work from Moriyama in conjunction with the exhibition. Entitled Dog and Mesh Tights, it's an immersive multiscreen projection of black and white photographs that plunges viewers into the commotion of Shinjuku, capturing fragments of daily life from its urban hustle and bustle.
Commenting on the new work and his enduring love affair with Tokyo, and specifically Shinjuku, Moriya says: "My relationship with Shinjuku goes back almost forty years, but I still find it enigmatic. I may position myself there as an observer, but every time I do so, Shinjuku hides its true nature like a chimera and throws my mental perspective into confusion, as if I had strayed into a labyrinth. I certainly don’t hate the place - yet if asked if I truly love it, I sense I’d fall silent. Other areas, such as Ginza or Asakusa, can engender feelings of both love and hate - I can have a tepid relationship with them - but with Shinjuku there is no place for such vacillation: if anything my obsession grows stronger.
"I shot Osaka in 1997, and as soon as the photo book was complete I realized naturally but convincingly, 'Now at last I’m ready for Shinjuku.' Having held Osaka in my lens for a year, I felt an overwhelming certainty that the only place that was similar, equivalent, or indeed had a dense substantiality capable of surpassing it, was Shinjuku.
"My routine is to walk through the streets holding my camera, watching, and it was self-evident that the only fresh, raw territory left to me was neither Shibuya nor Ikebukuro - and definitely not anywhere like Ginza, Ueno or Asakusa - but Shinjuku. For street photographers like me, those who stand on Tokyo’s asphalt with camera in hand, it would be inconceivable to look elsewhere, to ignore Shinjuku as it presents itself to us, this Pandora’s box brim-full of modern myths.
"Whatever I do, wherever I do it, I end up returning to Shinjuku, just like a homing pigeon or a salmon. That doesn’t mean I consider it in any way my hometown. But Shinjuku was the first place I ended up when I left Osaka at age twenty, so perhaps its streets imprinted themselves on my brain at that instant, as with a kitten or puppy.
"The fierce fixation for this neighbourhood I have periodically fostered over the nearly forty years since could never be compared with any other. The more chimeric and labyrinthine it is, the more powerfully its enigmatic magnetism captures me.
"As I have been photographing Shinjuku these past two years, many have posed the question, “Why Shinjuku?” Each time I answered on impulse, based on how I felt at that moment—although sometimes I sounded quite serious. In truth, however, it comes down to nothing more than 'because it was there'."
The show runs from February 6 until June 5 and there's a Fondation Cartier catalogue to accompany the show with text from Moriyama himself. Meanwhile our very fine 55 book on Daido Moriyama features a great selection of his work over the years both iconic and lesser known and is available here. Finally, there are a number of really great Daido Moriyama limited edition photographs available over at Artspace. You can take a look at all of them here.