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Daido Moriyama

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Daido Moriyama on social rebellion in 1960s Japan

Photographer Daido Moriyama reflects on the rebellious youth culture of late 1960s Japan, a period when he and his colleagues were working on the avant-garde photography magazine Provoke (1968–69). He discusses his attempt to deconstruct the medium in his series Shashin yo sayonara Farewell Photography (1972), though it ultimately deconstructed him.

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Daido Moriyama on social rebellion in 1960s Japan

Daido Moriyama—Farewell Photography
March 2016

Daido Moriyama: When I first started taking photos of Yokosuka, it was right in the middle of the Vietnam War. From that time up until 1970 all of Japan became very political, so much that it really stood out. There are many different means of expression, but everyone seemed to be rebellious, fighting against their art form, the world, and anything political. The young people used that feeling as motivation to express themselves. I didn’t want to express a straightforward political message. I was more inspired by the feelings of rebellion and criticism that arose in our daily lives.

Provoke was originally founded by the philosopher and critic Koji Taki and my friend who had just started making photographs, Takuma Nakahira. The magazine lasted for a short term of only two years. It was the most political and radical time. Our space was the secret base for the anarchist league of students and all types of artists and creators. When we were working on Provoke we were seen as very radical, so people either hated us or ignored us. But I think people who were politically active knew about us. Much later on, in the 1980s, young photographers with a high level of awareness discovered us, acknowledged our existence, and supported it.

The book Farewell Photography was put together when I was questioning everything. Photography seemed to be something besides what it was seen to be. So the photos were made when I was excessively caught up in a desire to deconstruct photography. I wasn’t satisfied with the works that I was shooting, and also I felt doubtful about the world of Japanese photography that surrounded me. I questioned everything and was always irritated. Moreover, Provoke had just ended, and I had the urge to take photography to the limit. So I included photos with no subject and the ones with scratches all over, which had been stepped on in the darkroom. The book comprises such works.

When that book was made, most people denied it as real photography and didn’t approve, but it was what I wanted to do, so I was satisfied. The only person who praised the book then was Nobuyoshi Araki. In the end, photography wasn’t deconstructed. In a way, I was the one who was deconstructed because I wasn’t able to take photographs normally after that. But I couldn’t say “farewell” to photography. Looking back, I feel that I was young and thoughtless. But I’m glad that I did it.

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