A dog drops its head and turns to us, its gaze both challenging and sullen. One can practically hear it snarl and pant. Its scruffy fur is half-lit by the sun, but its snout is in shadow. Could this creature have guessed that its black-and-white portrait would become an iconic photograph?
Over the course of his sixty-year career, Daido Moriyama (b. 1938, Osaka) decisively altered how we view photographs. He used his camera to document his immediate surroundings and to visually explore post-war Japanese society. But he also questioned the very nature of photography itself.
His unmistakable visual language is as lauded as his countless publications, which are central to his work. Fittingly, the C/O Berlin retrospective will be the first to exhibit dozens of Moriyama’s rare photobooks and magazines alongside some 250 works and large-scale installations. Taken together, this exhibition presents one of the most innovative and influential artists and street photographers of our day.
Moriyama’s photographic subjects captivated viewers from the start, whether he was working with mass media and advertisements, societal taboos, or the theatricality of everyday life. He captured the clash of Japanese tradition and accelerated Westernization following the US military occupation of Japan after the end of World War II. Inspired by US artists such as Andy Warhol and William Klein, the photographer vivisected burgeoning consumer society in Japan. He explored the reproducibility of images, their dissemination, and consumption. Over and again, Moriyama placed his archive of images in new contexts, playing with enlargements, crops, and image resolution. Even today, his pioneering artistic spirit and visual intensity remain groundbreaking.
The retrospective focuses on two phases of Moriyama’s work. It begins with his early series for Japanese magazines such as Camera Mainichi and Asahi Camera, and presents his engagement with photorealism, his experiments in Provoke magazine, and his years of travel. During this avant-garde period of work, the photographer established his unique aesthetic, typified by unusually cropped, out-of-focus, and grainy black-and-white photographs known by the Japanese catchphrase are, bure, boke (grainy, blurry, out of focus). These images went on to define the style of an entire generation.
The second part picks up after the creative crisis Moriyama underwent for almost a decade. Since the 1980s, he has explored the essence of photography and of his own self, developing a visual lyricism with which he reflected on reality, memory, and cities. The conceptual depth of his work contributes to its power.
Daido Moriyama . Retrospective is the product of a three-year research period, and is one of the most comprehensive exhibitions ever mounted of this artist’s work. It is organized by Instituto Moreira Salles in cooperation with the Daido Moriyama Photo Foundation. C/O Berlin is the second institution in the world, and the first in Europe, to host this exhibition. Curated by Thyago Nogueira, Instituto Moreira Salles, in collaboration with Sophia Greiff, C/O Berlin Foundation. A monograph accompanying the exhibition is published by Prestel.
Daido Moriyama was born in Ikeda, Osaka, in 1938. He moved to Tokyo in 1961 where he worked as a freelance photographer for various Japanese magazines such as Asahi Camera, Camera Mainichi, and later Shashin Jidai. Moriyama joined the influential magazine Provoke in 1969. In subsequent decades, he went on to publish over 100 books, including the widely acclaimed A Hunter (1972), the experimental Farewell Photography (1972), the reflective Light and Shadow (1982), as well as monographs dedicated to unique places such as Shinjuku (2002) and Hokkaido (2008). He achieved international acclaim with his retrospective Stray Dog at SFMoMA in 1999. In addition, he has received various awards, including the Hasselblad Award (2018).
The Instituto Moreira Salles (IMS) is a Brazilian non-profit art institution with venues in São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, and Poços de Caldas. IMS was founded in 1992 and holds important collections in visual art, photography, music, literature, and prints and drawings. It is renowned for its exhibitions, highlighting artists and themes from Brazil and abroad. IMS also publishes exhibition catalogues and books on photography, literature, and music, in addition to the print magazines ZUM, dedicated to contemporary photography in Brazil and around the world, and serrote, a quarterly publication of essays and ideas.
Curator Sophia Greiff was a guest on ByteFM. Together with host Johanna Schmidt she talks about the photo as a medium, street photography and Daido Moriyama's special way of working and his oeuvre (in German).
On the occasion of the retrospective, the Fotobuch-Quartett took place for the first time at C/O Berlin: Frank Dürrach, Bettina Lockemann, Katja Stuke and Damian Zimmermann talk exclusively about Japanese photo books, their special features, and their status in both Japanese and Western culture.