Daido Moriyama


1979, produced 2017

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Not on display

Daido Moriyama born 1938
Digital slide projection
Duration: 15min, 45sec
ARTIST ROOMS Tate and National Galleries of Scotland
ARTIST ROOMS Tate and National Galleries of Scotland. Presented by the artist and acquired with assistance of the ARTIST ROOMS Fund, supported by the Henry Moore Foundation and Tate Members 2017


This work is a digital slide projection featuring images from Moriyama’s body of work Hokkaido, his largest project to date. The images were all taken in 1978–9 on the island of Hokkaido located in the northern part of Japan. The region of Hokkaido captured Moriyama's imagination as a young man still at school. Travel across Japan was prohibited in the aftermath of the Second World War, and for the young Moriyama the island had an exotic appeal. Throughout the 1960s he visited Hokkaido to take photographs, however it wasn’t until 1978, during a three-month stay, that he began to compulsively photograph the island. Over this period he worked through 250 rolls of film, amounting to almost 2000 photographs. The negatives were then left untouched until 2008, at which point Moriyama began to develop and edit them, resulting in the publication of the photobook Hokkaido in 2008, followed by the multi-volume series Northern.

The slide projection shows images of everyday life in Hokkaido’s rural society and features landscapes, street scenes, portraits and photographs of animals. Moriyama was a great admirer of Jack Kerouac’s book On the Road (1957) and much of his work is concerned with ‘the photographic journey’ and the chance encounter. He once described how he wanted to ‘draw a line and observe Japan by walking on it … a hunter with a camera’ (quoted in The Hokuriku Road, ‘The Wandering Hunter’, translated by Lena Fritsch, Asahi Journal, no.31, 1968). Although much of Moriyama’s later work would focus on urban subjects and the metropolis, Hokkaido can be understood within the context of his abiding interest in the journey. Although not as expressly concerned with ‘the road’ and the particular sensations of travel as his earlier photo-essays Route 8, Route 4.45 and National Highway 1 at Dawn, many of the images in Hokkaido feature travel by various means, whether train, bus or boat.

The photographs display Moriyama’s signature high contrast and grainy aesthetic, with tilted camera angles and seemingly haphazard cropping. The series equally displays the keen attention to light, shadow and form for which Moriyama became known. Produced at a time when the artist was struggling with anxiety, depression and painkillers, the images in Hokkaido convey a sense of melancholy and are at times bleak and reflective. When compared with the frenetic and claustrophobic energy of work Moriyama shot in more urban locations, the remote location and open space of Hokkaido lends itself to a feeling of loneliness and isolation.

Given the delay of decades in processing these images, they have a particular resonance when considered in relation to Moriyama’s definition of a photograph as ‘a fossil of light and time’ (Daido Moriyama, ‘A Fossil of Time’, in Memories of a Dog, translated by J. Junkerman, Paso Robles, CA 2004, p.133). Equally, the artist has described the process of taking photographs as a means by which he can retrace his own steps and confront his memories. Revisiting the images he shot in Hokkaido almost thirty years after they were taken further highlights Moriyama’s interest in photography as a means to explore memory and time.

The slide projection Hokkaido was included in the exhibition Willian Klein + Daido Moriyama at Tate Modern, London in 2012.

Further reading
Daido Moriyama, Hokkaido, Rat Hole Gallery, Tokyo 2008.
Simon Baker (ed.), Daido Moriyama, exhibition catalogue, Tate Modern, London 2012.

Sarah Allen
November 2016

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