Singapore Contemporary 2017 / PHOTO17: Daido Moriyama

It is with some shame to admit that I was unfamiliar with legendary Japanese photographer Daido Moriyama’s work until the Singapore Contemporary 2017 art fair’s newest offering, the inaugural Photo17.  If one can point to the inventor of Japanese street photography – long before the candid fashion snaps we know of today hit the World Wide Web – it would be Moriyama, winner of the Infinity Award for Lifetime Achievement from the International Center of Photography and still an incredibly active photographer at the age of 78.


Moriyama made his mark after capturing scenes of post-war Japan, searching for the sinister and the haunting in a teetering urban landscape.  Specializing mostly in black-and-white, this style extends to his modern-day work blown up as grainy silkscreen on canvas.  Arresting and uncomfortable, these canvas works bring out haunting inner layers of scenes such as roadside automobile accidents and close-ups of fishnet stockings.


For a sense of Moriyama’s shot selection of specific locations over time, his Record photo book series provides insights through the sheer quantity of work and occasional first person perspectives.  Each of the 33 volumes to date, published between 1972 through 2016, presents different self-imposed challenges.  One issue was shot entirely in Tokyo in the course of a single day after he erroneously bragged that such a short timeline was possible.  Others transport his shooting style outside of Japan, bringing a fresh eye to places such as Morocco, France and Taiwan.  Record No. 28, his thickest issue in the series, consists of photos across Taiwan that did not make a cut for a different project, a street snap book authored by him and published out of Taipei.  As such, scenes that would have been innocuous in color – a 5K run where racers are dressed as zombies, a blurred alley at night, a self-portrait in a bathroom mirror – take on overwhelming ambiguity.

Issues of Record are available for purchase from Aiko Nagasawa Publishing.  All issues purchased from the publisher are autographed by Daido Moriyama.

Photos: Daido Moriyama – Singapore Contemporary 2017 / PHOTO17
all photos by Yuan-Kwan Chan / Meniscus Magazine