Daido Moriyama's knack for finding the extraordinary image in ordinary surroundings

Japanese photographer has two exhibitions – one group, one solo – in Hong Kong currently, showing the depth of his 'are, bure, boke' aesthetic

PUBLISHED : Friday, 09 October, 2015, 11:29am
UPDATED : Friday, 09 October, 2015, 11:47pm

Daido Moriyama stands on a kerb on Central's Ice House Street, cigarette in one hand, camera in the other. It's grey and wet, and while most people would find such surroundings somewhat dull, the Japanese photographer was seeing something very different. He has a knack for making the ordinary look extraordinary - his solo show, "Catching Eye, Catching Mind" at the Kwai Fung Hin Art Gallery until November 7, is proof of that.

"I don't find the ordinary boring. I find the everyday life very interesting, very intriguing - it's very exciting," says Moriyama.

Dressed in jeans and a black T-shirt, aviator sunglasses swinging from his V-neck, 76-year-old Moriyama looks like one of the beat generation artists that have influenced his work over a career that has spanned more than 40 years (one image in this show is titled Andy Warhol, while one of Moriyama’s photobooks, On the Road, was named after Jack Kerouac's novel of the same name). "Even today I'm influenced by those artists, especially Warhol."

Enter the gallery and the first image you'll see you is Stray Dog: Unofficial Self-portrait, one of Moriyama's most iconic. Taken in 1971, it continues to both intrigue and unnerve. But that's what Moriyama does best. One of the leading figures in post-war photography, Moriyama pushed the country's creative boundaries when he joined Provoke, an experimental photography magazine founded by Yutaka Takanashi, Koji Taki and Takuma Nakahira. The magazine sought to refresh the aesthetics of photography, and to question the increasingly commercial visual language of Japanese society in the 1960s.

Moriyama's blurry and raw street photos challenged the Japanese photography world and they loved it, as did the rest of the world (he has shown solo and group exhibitions worldwide).

For now, he's having a Hong Kong moment. As well as his solo show, Moriyama is collaborating with two other Japanese photographers for "Up Close: Eroticism in the works of Eikoh Hosoe, Daido Moriyama, and Nobuyoshi Araki". His shots are highly textured and abstract, focusing on the erotic subtext consuming Tokyo and depicting the fragmentary nature of modern Japan. His portrait subjects include actors and nightclub performers; his "Tights" series shows close-ups of legs in fishnet stockings.

But while the subject matter for both shows is very different, one common thread is the expressive "are, bure, boke" (rough, blurred and out-of-focus) aesthetic, quick snapshots taken without looking through the camera's viewfinder, a distinctive feature of his work.

"I love cities very much, especially big cities. In a bigger city, there is a bigger variety of people, more stories and a higher mobility.

"One aspect of Hong Kong is it's super futuristic - large numbers of skyscrapers. But then you see the hills and the back alleys and you see the human side - everyday people going about their lives and you can see that, I love this combination. In Hong Kong, everyday life - normalcy mixed together in a chaotic manner - I find that super charming."

"Catching Eye, Catching Mind", until Nov 7, Kwai Fung Hin Art Gallery, 20 Ice House St, Central. Inquiries: 2580 0058