Hello,
Daido

“Outside my door, it’s wonderland.” Daido Moriyama, photographer, captures the objects of his curiosity with a little camera that he carries everywhere he goes. Still in love with photography after all these years, Moriyama, now eighty-five, opens up about life and art.

Daido Moriyama

Photographer

Born in 1938 in Osaka Prefecture. In 1958, he set up shop in Osaka as a freelance designer. Working as an assistant to photographer Takeji Iwamiya, he went to Tokyo in 1961 to collaborate with photography cooperative VIVO, and later worked for photographer Eikoh Hosoe, assisting with Ordeal by Roses (1963), the artist’s book-length portrait of Yukio Mishima. In 1966, he began working with photographer Takuma Nakahira. The next year, he won the New Artist Award from the Japan Photo Critics Association. In 1971, “Stray Dog” appeared in Asahi Camera. Showing work all over the world, Moriyama has created numerous photobooks, including Japan: A Photo Theater, Farewell Photography, Light and Shadow, and the Record series. In 2021, he collaborated with UT on five T-shirts, “Stray Dog” among them. His work was featured in the PEACE FOR ALL project in 2023. THE TOKYO TOILET / DAIDO MORIYAMA / SWITCH is available from Switch Publishing.

Q1. Where and what did you photograph yesterday?
I walked along Komachidori in Kamakura. It’s always fun to snap pictures in a crowd. Shopping streets look different coming and going, with the light the other way, so I always make a round trip. Guess I took maybe fifty shots.
Q2. What’s the key to street photography?
Don’t hesitate. You need to act on instincts. If I’m walking through a crowd, I’ll take a photo when the inspiration hits, before I start to wonder if I should. I use a compact camera and barely have to peek through the viewfinder.
Q3. How long do you spend taking photos on a given day?
I’ll be outside walking around for two or three hours. Since I’m living in Zushi now, I don’t get up to Shinjuku or Ikebukuro as often as I used to.
Q4. What draws you to places like Shinjuku and Ikebukuro?
Coming from Osaka, Shinjuku Station was my first view of the city. For me, it’s where Tokyo begins. They say Tokyo’s a city of desire, which worked out great for me. My photographs capture desire. My own desire and the desires of everyone around me.
Q5. What’s your favorite photographic experience?
Buenos Aires stands out from the rest. It’s sensual, and I’m not talking about tango. The city has a smell. It seethes with desire. The book I did came out well over twenty years ago. I went twice, winter and summer.
Q6. What city’s at the top of your list?
I’ve always wanted to visit Mexico City, though somehow I haven’t made it there. At this point I’m not sure I will, but in my mind it’s bustling with people.
Q7. Is there one photo you’ll never forget?
My photos are a part of me. I don’t like this one or that one more than the rest. I’d like to think the best work is yet to come. In terms of other people’s photographs, I’d name William Klein’s New York (1956). This book was a huge influence on the course of my career. It’s my favorite collection.
Q8. What photographers and artists made you who you are?
Klein for sure. I still go back to that work even now. The snapshots in New York are dizzying, disorienting. The precision of the focus and the sympathy make my cells buzz. In 1971, I made my first trip to New York with [modern artist] Tadanori Yokoo. It was a great time. Andy Warhol ran the town. I was a big fan of Warhol. In my mind, he’s not an artist, so much as a photo maker, in the broadest sense. Like how he duplicated images of Marilyn Monroe or Cambell’s soup. Yokoo suggested that we go and meet him, since I liked him so much, but I got freaked out by the possibility and wound up saying that we didn’t need to, something I still regret.
Q9. Is there anything you’d like to photograph?
It’s hard to answer on the spot. Because I’m always living for the next photograph.
Q10. What prompts you to take a photo?
A person only needs to step outside to find themselves in wonderland. I can’t help but capture what I see. People can say whatever they want about the result, but I don’t care, I just take whatever speaks to me. This especially applies to snapshots. You can think about them later.

BUENOS AIRES

Collection released in 2005. From the end of the book: “Since discovering those photos of the old and somehow nostalgic port, and finding out that the origin of that passionate, sensual dance the tango came from this place called La Boca, an inner longing for Argentina, and the town of Buenos Aires in particular, has had a strong pull on my heart, together with the resonance of the pleasant nuances in its name, and I have been unable to let go.” The photos capture the chaotic eros of the skyline.

Photo collection THE TOKYO TOILET / DAIDO MORIYAMA / SWITCH, depicting Shibuya’s public restrooms. Released at Paris Photo. Moriyama looks through the book at the studio of its designer, Satoshi Machiguchi.

Q11. Is photography art?
You can see it as art, but it’s fine if you don’t. I wouldn’t say I go around thinking of it that way. More like a copy of the world, mediated by the camera.
Q12. What films have influenced you most?
When I was still in Osaka, about twenty or so, I was blown away by Alain Delon in Purple Noon. It opened my eyes to the world. In terms of directors, [photographer] Takuma Nakahira was a Godard, and I was a Fellini. When we were young, Nakahira and I used to see foreign films together. I didn’t get what he saw in Godard. Same goes for him, though, not resonating with Fellini. We were different people, but Nakahira and I must have had something fundamentally in common that brought us together.
Q13. What do you do each day to warm up for your photo work?
Nothing special! All I need’s a camera and a city. If that city’s Tokyo, I’ll choose a neighborhood. On a given day, I might be in a Nakano mood, or maybe it’s Takadanobaba, then Sangenjaya, and so on.
Q14. How would you sum up your style?
Jeans and T-shirts, or when it’s cold a sweater and a basic jacket. I tend to wear a lot of black.
Q15. Do you like graphic tees?
I’ve got a Mickey and a Cambell’s soup can. I’ll wear graphic T-shirts if they match my style. I’ve loved Mickey since I was a little kid. Now and then I’ll wear a UT shirt that has one of my photos on it. Most of the time, though, I wear black shirts with nothing on them. It could be that my early work in design makes me interested in certain kinds of graphics. When I was working at the studio in Osaka, I spent a lot of time looking at fashion magazines from overseas. I think that must have impacted my later work.

©Daido Moriyama Photo Foundation

Moriyama’s iconic “Stray Dog” was taken in Aomori, Misawa where the US military has a base. When Moriyama stepped out of a hotel, the dog was right in front of him. Once it was developed and enlarged, he took a liking to the dog’s expressiveness. This figurine is one of Moriyama’s prized possessions.

Daido Moriyama Collection UT

2021 UT depicting “Stray Dog.” While the original print depicts the entire animal, the shirt crops it dramatically. Moriyama says this is his most widely circulated photograph.

PEACE FOR ALL

Moriyama’s photo of Mt. Fuji is now part of the PEACE FOR ALL T-shirt lineup. He joins a team of major figures sharing a desire to take action for world peace, with all proceeds to be donated to international organizations supporting those affected by poverty, discrimination, and war.*

Peace For All Graphic T-Shirt (Daido Moriyama)

*UNIQLO parent company Fast Retailing Co., Ltd. will donate an amount equivalent to all profits (no less than 20% of the selling price) equally among UNHCR, Save the Children Japan, and Plan International Inc. This sales promotion is conducted by Fast Retailing, a parent company of UNIQLO Japan.

Q16. What’s the first thing you do each morning?
When I wake up, I head to the kitchen for a smoke. I’ve managed to quit drinking, but I can’t let go of smoking.
Q17. What are your favorite foods?
I tend to go for basic foods like curry. I haven’t actually had this before, but something I kept on saying that I wanted to try for decades, and probably never will, is pork belly tempura, which I seem to remember reading in a book by Takeshi Kaiko. It sounded so delicious.
Q18. What are your thoughts on UNIQLO?
Interesting T-shirts for good prices. I was blown away seeing my photograph of Mt. Fuji on a T-shirt at the store. I felt the same about the “Stray Dog” shirt. It makes me happy to see a person wearing one of these. Rather than stay stuck in a frame, the work gets to go out into the world. I love that.
Q19. The theme for this issue is “lightness.” How does “light” work in photography?
Photography is about light and shadow. It couldn’t happen without light, but shadow gives the work its essence.
Q20. Of all the “light” you’ve shot in your career, what memory stands out the most?
First thing that comes to mind is the shot of the fedora from my 1982 collection Light and Shadow. A hat sitting in the sun, but the light and shadow makes it special. I’m not saying this is a great photo, but it’s what I thought of when you asked.
Q21. What can someone do to improve their photography?
Photograph the world you see. Whether it’s one shot or many. Desire pushes you to take more shots. Someone with less desire might take less. Getting better, then, means wanting to take more photos of what speaks to your desire.
Q22. If you weren’t a photographer, what would you do for work?
I think I’d be a sailor. I took the tests for merchant marine school, but flunked the whole math section. They told me if you can’t do math, you’re useless at sea. This was before I had a camera, but I made trips to Kobe to check out the boats. Not long after flunking the test, I was taking pictures for a living.
Q23. Which collection made you feel like you were finally a photographer?
I guess it was my first collection, Japan: A Photo Theater. Shuji Terayama [dramatist] was kind enough to write the text. I can remember every single photograph. When Terayama brought me to the theater, I didn’t like the scene. It made me want to sneak off to Mont-Blanc in Jiyugaoka for a coffee. Once I’d stuck around a bit, though, everything clicked. I may have been turned off at first, but something there appealed to me, and part of that was finding “myself” in the work.
Q24. What’s the toughest time you’ve had in life?
Life is always tough. There’s no such thing as smooth sailing.
Q25. If you could choose your final photograph, what would it be?
I hope, only half-jokingly, that I go down holding a camera on the street, and capture the moment as I fall. I’d just hate for it to come across as forced.
  • ©Daido Moriyama Photo Foundation

Light and Shadow

After 1972’s Farewell Photography, Moriyama bounced back from a ten-year slump with his masterwork Light and Shadow. Moriyama mentions this fedora in the interview.

Mickey Stands UT
©Disney

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