“It may look like I’m just pointing the camera at what’s in front of me. But I’m trying to photograph what people see, but don’t notice – something that’s mysterious and unknown in everyday life.”                                                                                         Daido Moriyama

Daido Moriyama

So far my ‘top ten list’ has looked very white, perhaps reflecting history itself, often represented from this viewpoint. I know of few iconic photographers who are people of colour, although there are some incredibly talented Black and Asian contemporary artists out there. If I am wrong, please let me know of some artists I can study. On this note, I am writing about Moriyama, a Tokyo-based Japanese artist.

Daido Moriyama

Moriyama, in front of two of his more famous photographs.

Japan has a fascinating Street Photography culture, worthy of anyone’s attention. There are many Japanese artists that could be discussed. The most iconic artist from Japan would have to be Daido Moriyama. Moriyama established himself taking photographs of post-WWII Tokyo. His photos have traditionally been all B&W, although this has changed in recent years, and I covet his latest book, “In Colour: Now and Never Again.’

Moriyama’s Photography

Moriyama’s gritty images of urban life contrast to the sharp, well-framed photographs that Western artists were creating at the time. One set of his photos depicted products from the USA, lining Japanese shelves, leading to accusations of Moriyama being anti-American. However, Daido denies this was ever the case, stating he was anti-photography, not anti-American. Moriyama produced ‘Farewell Photography,’ in 1972, a book that, perhaps, summarised this point of view.

Looking at his work, you can imagine the sporadic and energetic manner that Moriyama must have. His work pokes fun at the school of thought derived from the ‘decisive moment,’ / Henry Cartier Bresson school of photography. His style is a reminder that perfection should not be the final purpose of creating a photograph. Moriyama took this approach to the extreme, taking photos of his photos and scratching negatives, perhaps reflecting the grit of the scenes he searched for.

Learning from Moriyama

If you google Moriyama, you will find tips on how to emulate his style, or how to approach photography. However, studying Moriyama has taught me something, and it may also give you food for thought. Think about where you find your influences. Historically, photography has been represented by White males, although artists such as Dorothea Lange and Leibovitz demonstrate this is not always true. Photography has been shaped by early western photographers. Moriyama bucked the trend, and today Japanese street photography retains a distinctive look.

Please do have a look at the photographers I have written about, but remember to look for inspiration from contemporary artists, whose schools of thought may differ from the ‘norm.’ Street photography is steeped in tradition, but there are those that try to buck the trend. Never be scared of trying something new and don’t doubt yourself. Seek inspiration from the greats, but also seek ideas from those that operate on the fringes, it is there the ground gets broken.


Photo by Daido Moriyama.

Just a note..

Writing this mini, ‘Inspirational Photographer series,’ has been a fair amount of work. As with many artists, I sometimes feel I am bluffing my way through. While each photographer has inspired me at some point, I have had to seek out additional information to make an article worth reading. If I have made a mistake, please let me know, and I will make the change.

Keep Clicking, Chris

If you have read this far, you may also want to look at the work of Araki Nobuyoshi. He is the artist I really wanted to write about, but his work is a little to ‘exotic’ for this website!


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