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Daido Moriyama

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Daido Moriyama on the essence of photography

Photographer Daido Moriyama reflects on the essence of his medium, his appreciation for the Pop artist Andy Warhol, and his process for capturing the world around him. He recounts the origin of his photograph Misawa (1971) and how the stray dog it depicts became emblematic of his career. Some footage courtesy of Tate Digital. © Tate 2016


Daido Moriyama on the essence of photography

Daido Moriyama
March 2016

Daido Moriyama: What do I want to do with photography? What is photography? How do I see the outside world? I think the essence of photography is the concept of copying or duplication. Andy Warhol copied photographs of various scenes and produced his works from them. And then he made copies of those works. I think he held that concept within him. And that concept is really close to what I think the essence of photography is. In other words, I don’t see the act of taking photographs as an artistic act of creating “art pieces.” I’ve always thought of it as making copies. So I totally related to what Warhol was doing. Photographing the city, cars, people, TV screens, posters, film screens . . . I consider them all the same. So I wasn’t really interested in shooting the TV screen; it was just one subject in my point of view.

Photography is taking pictures of common manners and customs. When I shoot, I’m driven by my interests, my physical reactions, my memories, and all kinds of other elements. It’s the people who observe my work that give it any kind of meaning. I just continue to offer them what I’ve captured with my mind and body. I want to look at everything and capture everything. Of course, in reality, that’s impossible, but that’s my intention. And I don’t walk around with a certain concept, choosing what to shoot and what not to. I don’t think.

To shoot a serial for Asahi Camera magazine with the theme of “traveling somewhere,” I went to the city of Misawa. As I stepped out of the hotel in the morning, a dog was there, wandering around, and I just photographed him casually. That’s all. So when I blew it up and made the print, I was surprised. I was surprised by the face of the dog. I was surprised by how provocative his face was. But these days people make jokes, saying, “The dog is Moriyama’s master.” That’s because that print sells so well, without compare.

Basically, I want to shoot every day, and I actually do, all the time. Even when I’m just going to the convenience store. Going hand in hand with the camera, that’s my life. As long as I’m alive, I want to shoot and capture as many moments as I can. That’s my basic way of thinking now. In the time that I have been given, I want to keep on taking photographs till the end. That’s all.

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Works in the Collection by Daido Moriyama