Dog’s Eye View
Daido Moriyama is a name I have never heard before in my life before I picked up “Stray Dog of Tokyo.” But I had enjoyed the previous two releases in Viz’s “New People Artist Series,” with Yoshitomo Nara and Yayoi Kusama, and I wanted to continue with the series.
Moriyama, it turns out, is a fascinating individual. Born in 1938 in Ikeda, Osaka (where I lived for four years, which was an unexpected coincidence!), Moriyama is of that cynical generation who were children during war-time Japan, then saw the selfish and empty society that sprang up in the aftermath. Like other artists of his generation (Oshima Nagisa springs to mind with his Cruel Story of Youth), Moriyama started making a record of the shadowy parts of his country hidden by the glaring neon-lights of pop-culture progress and a future that seemed eternally rosy.
A notorious recluse, Moriyama only opened up for this documentary under the condition that it would be done on a single camcorder, with as little possible barrier between subject and screen. I found that fascinating. Too many photographers that I know use their camera as a barricade to hide behind from the world. Shy people, they hold up huge cameras up to hide their own face and are only observers, not participants. Moriyama specifically attempts to avoid this by using small cameras, and from shooting from the hip rather than composing shots.
He says that he developed this technique as people react differently when they think they are on camera, and this way the photographer and subject can be eye to eye like people. He purposefully uses cheap cameras, picked up in used shops and markets, and it was not until this documentary that he took his first digital picture.
I loved listening to Moriyama talk about his photography. He has fascinating theories, like about how photographers should only copy, and not try and put themselves into the picture. For awhile he experimented with controlled exposures on pictures, but he was unsatisfied with this as he felt that he was then attempting to manipulate the world around him, rather than just copy it.
This was an interesting point, as photographer Nobuyoshi Araki (Subway Love) points out most photographers are creating fiction with their work. Araki makes mention of both their works involving Love Hotels, with Araki’s being largely posed and Moriyama’s (Daido Moriyama: The World through My Eyes) being raw and emotional.
The title, “Stray Dog in Tokyo,” comes from Moriyama’s own reference to himself in his autobiography Memories of a Dog, which I may just have to pick up. Thanks to Viz for introducing me to a fascinating and powerful artist!