Influences: Daido Moriyama

Rush Hour, Train Station - Tokyo, Japan

Rush Hour, Train Station – Tokyo, Japan

I’m starting something new today, which I’ll feature once in a while. Influences is going to feature people, most likely photographers, books and possibly other media that has influenced my work. First up is Daido Moriyama, a Japanese photographer known for gritty, black and white, street photographs. He primarily shot film with a compact camera.

I first discovered Moriyama about five years ago and it just happen to coincide with a purchase of the Pentax Q7, the world smallest interchangeable lens mirrorless camera. I bought it in Japan and fell in love with the built-in super contrasty black and white mode. In many ways, it was a precursor to my beloved Olympus PEN-F. The Pentax even has a front dial to change JPEG effects like the PEN-F.

Daido Moriyama lived for the city and often captured his images in Shinjuku, a part of Tokyo known for bars and a red light district. It’s a gritty area and Moriyama’s very contrasty black and whites make it even more so. There is also an erotic feel to some of his photographs, as well as a haphazard, relaxed style. He was influenced by William Klein, another gritty street photographer out of New York City. Except, Klein’s work is more precise.

Like Klein, my work tends to be orderly, but even more so. I was really struck with the rough imperfection of Daido Moriyama. There’s a lot of motion blur, grain, and out of focus imagery — basically the opposite of what I do. He changed my notion of what a photograph can be. You can see some of his work on his official website, but better yet, just Google “Daido Moriyama Photos” for a better image selection.

Over time, I think my photographs have evolved. My underlying exactness is still there, but relaxed somewhat. The featured photo is one of mine, which I shot in Tokyo during rush hour back in 2014. It’s one of may favorites I made with the Pentax Q7. It’s a little more Moriyama-esque than my usual.

Incidentally, the big reason Ricoh GR film cameras are so expensive now is because of Moriyama. The GR appeared to be his go to camera, not necessarily because he is a big Ricoh fan, but because he likes compact cameras. It allows him to discreetly shoot photos in the city; capturing candids are harder to do with a SLR. I guess the continued popularity of the Digital GR is probably due to Moriyama and its street photography pedigree.

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11 thoughts on “Influences: Daido Moriyama

  1. Great photo, Andy. It’s fascinating how the focal point is not a person, but a poster amidst the moving people with the face of a person on it.

  2. Very nicely created. It made me stop and realize that the face looking straight at you was on the poster, and not a person you quickly caught. I love photos like this.

  3. I hope this means you might return to the Q7. I still think the work you did with it is your best. You shot differently with it and produced some amazing images. Maybe it was simply because you allowed your guard to drop on technical perfection with that particular camera in your hands.

    1. I might have to dig out the Q7 and shoot it from time to time.

      You’ve been saying for a while that my Q7 photos are your favorites and recently commented about my Canon G7X Mark II images too. I’ve been thinking, what do these two have in common?

      Both cameras are small compacts and more importantly without viewfinders. I must be composing these in a free format way. When I use a viewfinder, I must be getting more ridged and my desire for precision gets amplified.

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