Paris Photo 2023

Top five fair highlights

Selected by Alessandro Merola

Paris Photo has returned to the Grand Palais Éphémère with a diverse line-up of ambitious solo, group and thematic gallery presentations. Amongst the highlights, contributions by artists working across mixed-media make for some of the most memorable viewings. Here are five standout displays from the fair’s 26th edition – selected by 1000 Words Assistant Editor, Alessandro Merola. 


1. Bruno V. Roels, Gold Giants
Gallery FIFTY ONE

There is no shortage of fascinating flora at this year’s edition – from an Anna Atkins’ cyanotype all the way through to Hanako Murakami’s thermographies – but the cranked-up, sci-fi-esque palms of Bruno V. Roels are utterly hypnotic. Each of the works presented across an eight-metre-long, old rose wall at Gallery FIFTY ONE has its own character, mood and texture, yet all are interrelated and function as variations on one image. Nearby, the warbly ripples of distortion in “Magic Lantern (Palmographs)” are filled with anxiety and encroaching dread, whilst the squiggle-painted “Figura Serpentinata (Demeter)” has an air of sinful artificiality. Through this series of unaffected, unsentimental gestures of dissolution ­– stretched to infinity with deadpan irreverence – Roels loops us back to the ways in which we continually seek out familiar shapes and icons. Of course, these ventures comprise only the latest chapter of Roels’ playing with paradise. One feels he isn’t far off repeating it to the point of emptiness. 

2. Marguerite Bornhausser, When Black is Burned
Carlos Carvalho

Marguerite Bornhausser is becoming a fixture around these premises, not least for the fact she is currently completing a residency exploring the Grand Palais’ renovation. Unveiling reworked negatives – painted or coloured – from Bornhausser’s new series, When Black is Burned, the two walls at Carlos Carvalho are a reminder that the French artist’s penchant for the experimental – not to mention her taste for deep hues – is only intensifying. This sharp and splashy selection draws on the ways in which light and shadow can unlock the imagination. Indeed, Bornhausser renders what she dreams and not what she sees, not so much confronting but reactivating – or reinventing – sensations through visions outside of time. Also available here is her freshly-printed, hard-back book with Simple Editions, a wholly captivating and riotous object in which the convergence of natural elements and artificial matter suggests that meaning can drift in on a current of air and alight itself on just about anything. If Bornhausser has a crush on beauty, then it is as much for its mystery as for its surface appeal.

3. Hassan Hajjaj, 1445 in Paris
193 Gallery

Hassan Hajjaj’s solo booth at 193 Gallery is as bold as can be, with vibrant camel-print wallpaper and flooring comprising the scenography to the Moroccan’s mixed-media works, which are hung in custom frames made of stuffed olive tins, Arabic alphabet blocks and tyres. They belong to celebrated (and celebratory) series such as My Rockstars and Dakka Marrakchia, and are themselves melting pots, remixing photography with fabrics, commerce with tradition and heritage with globalism. Although unrepentantly decorative, Hajjaj’s works are also critical in that they batt off orientalist clichés, all the while confronting the consumerism that has transformed traditional craft production in the Arab world. Yet, ultimately, it’s the unmistakable, uninhibited sense of rootedness that is Hajjaj’s hallmark. Moroccan mint tea ceremonies and sweets can be enjoyed at the booth, making it the place to be for cross-cultural exchanges (as further emphasised by the exhibition’s title, which invokes the current year in the Hijri calendar). This is Hajjaj’s world of today.

4. Daido Moriyama, ’71, NY
Daniel Blau

At Daniel Blau, the unstoppable Daido Moriyama is represented by 22 staggering new paintings, each splicing consecutive exposures – that is, back-to-back snaps of the same scenes – taken during the photographer’s first trip outside of Japan in 1971. The influences of Andy Warhol and William Klein are there to see in Moriyama’s New York: an overwhelming and chaotic chronicle bestowed, in black and bronze, by a narrator whose finger seems to be as firmly on the city’s pulse as the camera’s shutter release. What is at stake here is a kind of unveiling in which Moriyama seeks to grasp what is lurking, hidden beneath the surface, or in-between the negatives. By juxtaposing different perspectives, ruptured in time, he delves into his memories, confronting them – like a mirror – with the materiality of the world. The stand, simultaneously, blasts us into space with a curious selection of photographs derived from galactical missions in the 1960s and 70s, including Friendship 7, in which John Glenn became the first man to orbit the earth. He did it solo, and has a dazzling shot of space particles to show for it. You can’t help but feel his was a quest for truth not unlike Moriyama’s on earth.

5. Rebekka Deubner, Strip
Espace Jörg Brockmann

The valedictory photograms on display at Espace Jörg Brockmann constitute the most poignant and affecting work at this year’s Curiosa. Convening various items from the wardrobe of Rebekka Deubner’s deceased mother, what Strip offers is no mere catalogue, but, rather, a kind of séance. The mosaic-like hang heightens the disembodied and untethered quality of the photograms, whose shifts in scale – often zooming into tiny tears and frays – evoke the yearning for physical closeness to the departed. Although the tight crops teeter towards abstraction, Deubner never compromises her concern for detail and texture. The presentation of a video work in which the artist interacts with her mother’s old items – she ties her laces, applies lipstick and pulls out a tissue from a pocket – creates an intriguing tension with the ethereal and ghostly photograms. After all, it is by way of Deubner’s cameraless approach that she resists any sense that she is fighting against evanescence. Instead, she evokes the nuanced, unresolved conflict between holding on and letting go; between what can be touched and what can only be felt. ♦

Paris Photo
 runs at the Grand Palais Éphémère until 12 November 2023.


Alessandro Merola is Assistant Editor at 1000 Words.

Images:

1-“Unfinished Landscape” (2023) © Bruno V. Roels. Courtesy of the artist and Gallery FIFTY ONE.

2-“Gold Giant #3” (2021) © Bruno V. Roels. Courtesy of the artist and Gallery FIFTY ONE.

3-“Also Protected By Sharp Spines And Needles” (2023) © Bruno V. Roels. Courtesy of the artist and Gallery FIFTY ONE.

4-“Untitled” from When Black is Burned (2023) © Marguerite Bornhausser. Courtesy of the artist, Carlos Carvalho and Simple Editions.

5-“Untitled” from When Black is Burned (2023) © Marguerite Bornhausser. Courtesy of the artist, Carlos Carvalho and Simple Editions.

6-“Garage Hajjaj (BW)” (2003/1424) © Hassan Hajjaj. Courtesy of the artist and 193 Gallery.

7-“n.t.” from ’71 NY (1971/2023) © Daido Moriyama Photo Foundation. Courtesy of Akio Nagasawa Gallery.

8-“Fireflies Outside Friendship 7: First Human-Taken Photograph from Space” (1962) © NASA/John Glenn. Courtesy of Daniel Blau.

9-“#11” from Strip (2022–23) © Rebekka Deubner. Courtesy of the artist and Espace Jörg Brockmann.

10-“#48” from Strip (2022–23) © Rebekka Deubner. Courtesy of the artist and Espace Jörg Brockmann.

Daido Moriyama

A Retrospective

Exhibition review by Mark Durden

Presented on four floors of The Photographers’ Gallery, London, Daido Moriyama: A Retrospective has been deftly curated by Thyago Nogueira of São Paulo’s Instituto Moreira Salles to offer an anti-modernist, Pop, all over display of pictures that extends the montage aesthetic of print media to the gallery wall, writes Mark Durden.


What does it mean today to show Daido Moriyama at The Photographers’ Gallery? In 2012, in an effective and revealing exhibition, Tate Modern presented Moriyama’s photography and silkscreen print variants, books and magazines alongside films, photography and paintings by William Klein. The pairing was significant, for Klein was an important influence through his grainy, blurry out of focus way of rendering the city in his 1956 book Life is Good and Good for You in New York. Can this new show of Moriyama say anything new? Curated by Thyago Nogueira and accompanied by a substantial new book, Daido Moriyama: A Retrospective has toured via Europe from São Paulo’s Instituto Moreira Salles in 2022. Presented on four floors of The Photographers’ Gallery, photographic images are everywhere, framed in grids, pasted on walls, on video screens, projected and in books and magazines in vitrines. The Tate Modern display of Moriyama was more modernist and restrained in comparison.

Perhaps the curatorial approach at The Photographers’ Gallery is more in keeping with Moriyama’s approach to photography. The often-made point is that Moriyama is a photographer for print-reproduction, that the book is his primary format. This anti-modernist, Pop, all over display of pictures is in keeping with this, extending the montage aesthetic of print media to the gallery wall.

The show begins on the top floor, accessed by a lift, its interior pasted with repeated images of a mascaraed eye, an appropriate cue to the image glut that awaits. Moriyama’s aesthetic or vision is defined in relation to the US, with Andy Warhol as well as Klein big influences. Warhol was encountered aptly through reproductions, by way of the exhibition catalogue of his 1968 Swedish retrospective at Moderna Museet. But his work also needs to be seen in terms of the destruction and defeat of Japan – Moriyama was seven when atomic bombs obliterated Nagasaki and Hiroshima – as well as its occupation by US forces after 1951 and its transformation by American consumer culture.  

The exhibition begins with his 1968 book Japan: A Photo Theater in the form of both a grid of selected photographic images and a video screen presentation of the book. As the text panel highlights, the point is that the book is assembled from photographs recomposed from earlier editorial pictures in magazines, a deliberate break from the sequencing and clarity of the picture essay, treating photographs as “fragments” according to Moriyama. Disjuncture and discordance characterise the pictures, many of them grainy, blurred and taken off-kilter. They detail the collisions of a Japan in transformation, the miraculous and bizarre worlds associated with Kabuki performances and the avant-garde theatre troupe Tenjō Sajiki, mixed in with observations of life on the street: a shaven-headed man on all fours, two upright and smartly dressed young Japanese shoppers, a woman fearful behind her partly opened but chained door, two women in traditional Japanese dress, the big tail fins of an American car. The lopsided photograph of a television screen with the fragmentary cartoon image of female lips and teeth, in its cheery but plastic expression, accords with the general unsettling of human values and expressions in the series. The book closes with a series of human foetuses in formalin, one of which is included in the grid display of pictures: a life still born, an allegory of photography itself.    

The top floor defines what is now his signature aesthetic. The analogue process is evident throughout – grain, blur and deliberate high-contrast. In a feature for Asahi Camera, the oiled flesh of overcrowded beachgoers seems irradiated, pleasure is linked with death. Bleached out figures recur, with light as a destructive force. A series of blow-ups from a traffic poster from National Police agency showing a graphic car crash makes a homage to both Warhol’s Death and Disaster silkscreens (1962-65) as well as Weegee. Another series includes a fuzzy broadcast image of Bill Eppbridge’s well-known photograph of Robert Kennedy’s assassination. The fourth floor closes with his photography for Provoke magazine, his features about sex and commodities in two of its four issues. In a display drawn from his series Eros (1969), a sequence of blurred images of an anonymous naked lone female in a hotel room is framed by an explanatory wall text referring to the issue’s critique of ‘capitalism’s suppression of individual desire through which real feelings were progressively repressed and replaced by the consumption of images.’ Moriyama’s photographs of displays of supermarket products represent a degraded Pop aesthetic – the image deterioration or break-up through reproduction becomes integral to the picturing, a counter to the fetishism of commodities.

The third floor begins with a grid of colour photographs, dating from the late 1960s, and on a facing wall, a colour vinyl print blow-up of one of them. It shows Moriyama behind the camera, reflected in a mirror, which also shows the face of a young Japanese woman, slightly out of focus and looking at the photographer and us. For all the ambiguities set up through the mirror, like Eros, it is an all too familiar dynamic. Women are a constant in his street photography – among the block of colour images is his memorable and often reproduced flash-lit photo of a woman running away from the camera barefoot over rough and sharp-looking debris in a back alley in Shinjuku. The picture makes explicit the predatory menace we are invited to assume is allied with the photographer. Of course, the predatory male photographer was, and still is, part and parcel of street photography: Lee Friedlander ironicised it brilliantly in his 1970 book Self Portrait, whilst Garry Winogrand both indulged and joked with it in his celebratory 1975 book Women are Beautiful.

Amidst the glut of images, one almost loses the radicality of his book Farewell Photography (1972), his goodbye that certainly marked an existential crisis but was never in the end a goodbye. The complete layout from Farewell is presented as a wallpaper installation, in sequence. Not that sequencing makes much difference. On the wall, the pictures are less abrasive than in book form. Whilst the book is lost among other books and magazines in one of the vitrines, the whole book is shown on a video screen in the reading room on the second floor. The wall text includes his remark about how it was made against the ‘naivety to think that you could try and create masterpieces.’ It is of course ironic now that the book is unequivocally a masterpiece. Many of the images are drawn from the growing images he had amassed and accumulated. For Japan: A Photo Theater, he reshuffled pictures to break sense, but here he goes further as the pictures are so degraded – some were printed from negatives picked up from the darkroom floor. There are blanks and voids, grainy fields, solarised images, analogue noise and blur shrouding and obscuring what images remain discernible.

Towards the end of the show, there is a wall-sized blow-up of a photograph of a female mannequin head, adorned with mirrored sunglasses, one lens reflecting a woman from the street and the other the photographer. It is part of a recent work called Pretty Woman, an all-over wall installation of pasted photographic images, both colour and black-and-white, which, according to the captioning text overlaid on the wallpaper of images, ‘offers a garish immersion into urban consumerism through the trope of the female figure, in all its forms.’ The show invites us to see a shift in the work – a clear move from Farewell, which was dominated by disfiguring or the ruination of representation to a photography of the world, the streets of Japan and other cities, beginning in the early 1980s. But with this embrace of what the curator refers to as “the visual lyricism” of street photography, the thematic is the same – the link between commodities and woman in Pretty Woman is a variant from his two series in Provoke, but now played out also using colour and in response to urban spaces choking with images. A generous reading might say there is a critique in the emphasis on vacuity, for example, the mannequin female head. There is a deathliness to photographic reproduction in Farewell and it is also here. Moriyama once referred to the all-over display of photographs as akin to a menu from which the spectator could choose pictures – but we are spoilt by choice. There are too many images. The show began with the re-assembly of photographs as fragments for his first book. It ends with a three-screen projection (with an accompanying soundtrack) from his ongoing magazine Record, which initially ran in 1972-73 and was relaunched in 2006 with more than 50 editions, in turn becoming a regular way of publishing his photography.

This is a very thorough, comprehensive and well-curated show. It does open up new insights into his work and one does get the sense it brings us closer to what, for better words, one might call Moriyama’s vision. In a recent documentary video included in the show, Moriyama refers to how “the world is erotic”. It links with earlier remarks about street photography in a film made for the Tate, where he remarked how “cities are enormous bodies of people’s desires”. For all the understandable buzz and excitement over this blockbuster show, such remarks are troubling when his street photography is so clearly centred on women. Whether the figure of the woman is a trope for consumerism or not, it does not matter. The world has moved on but Moriyama’s art has not. ♦

Images courtesy the artist and The Photographers’ Gallery, London © Daido Moriyama

Daido Moriyama: A Retrospective runs at The Photographers’ Gallery, London, until 11 February 2024.


Mark Durden is an academic, writer and artist. He is Professor of Photography and the Director of the European Centre for Documentary Research at the University of South Wales. He works collaboratively as part of the artist group Common Culture and, since 2017, with João Leal, has been photographing modernist architecture in Europe.

Paris Photo 2022

Top six fair highlights

Selected by Alex Merola

Within the Grand Palais Éphémère, Paris Photo 2022 is now underway. This year’s offerings are more diverse and demanding than ever, making it a great litmus test for what is going on in the medium today. Here are six standout displays from the fair’s 25th edition – selected by 1000 Words Assistant Editor, Alex Merola. 


1. Boris Mikhailov, The Theatre of War, Second Act, Time Out
Galerie Suzanne Tarasieve

Paris’ multiple tributes to Boris Mikhailov, in the form of his retrospective at MEP and the haunting presentation of At Dusk at the Bourse de Commerce’s Salon, continue to take on new meanings following Vladimir Putin’s razing over the Ukrainian photographer’s hometown of Kharhiv. Galerie Suzanne Tarasieve’s decision to show The Theatre of War, Second Act, Time Out (2013), a rarely exhibited record of Ukraine’s slide into war, is a strong one. Produced during the wave of pro-European demonstrations in Kyiv’s Maidan Nezalezhnosti, these on-the-ground shots depict life behind the barricades – what the artist refers to as a “stage set”. Indeed, the Stalinist square, after which the movement was named, had been rebuilt in the 1930s as a set piece to glorify – or appeal to the memory of – revolution. But what we find here are the architects of a real revolt, ushering in the transformation of a state both deeply ambitious and tragically incomplete. In this regard, the inclusion of prints from Tea, Coffee, Cappuccino (2000–10), chronicling the colourful, plastic realty of Kharhiv in the era of new capitalism, both reflects and disturbs this story. No photographer has captured the complexity of Ukraine’s post-Soviet psyche as eloquently as Mikhailov, whose aesthetic sublimations have kept him on the inside of history, looking out.

2. Jean-Kenta Gauthier, Real Pictures: An Invitation to Imagine

Offering a sensitive dimension to erasure, memory, imagination et cetera – the themes that underpin Jean-Kenta Gauthier’s booth, which feels more like a mini-exhibition – is the installation of Real Pictures (1995) by Alfredo Jaar, who lays to rest the post-traumatic content of his Rwandan photographic encounters by entombing them in black boxes. The site contains a certain sorrow that can only be understood once you read the texts on the boxes, factually describing the photographs. The Real refers to a failure, or impossibility, of representation which sustains Jaar’s engagement with the subject matter of genocide. Whilst Daido Moriyama takes us back to the “beginning” of photography through a shot of his Tokyo bedroom in which Nicéphore Niépce’s “fossilised” View from the Window at Le Gras (1827) hangs (the clock reads 11:03, one minute after the Nagasaki bomb, as memorialised by the melted pocket watch of his mentor, Shōmei Tōmatsu), Hanako Murakami takes us back even further still via Louis Daguerre, whose words, now ignited in neon, “I am burning with desire to see your experiments from nature”, penned in a letter to Niépce. The statement becomes troubled alongside Murakami’s take-free paper stack which cleverly condenses Niépce’s 1829 treatise on the invention of heliography to its front and back covers, respectively illustrating both sides of a single sheet. Murakami’s ongoing, richly researched and poetic archaeologies of the past remind us that the history of photography is full of absences. By questioning the origins of the medium, she questions the memory of the world. 

3. Noémie Goudal
Galerie Les filles du Calvaire

The fragile instability of the world humans desire to see is intelligently interpreted by Noémie Goudal, whose dynamic presentation at the group show of Galerie Les filles du Calvaire really stands out. The complexity of Goudal’s interventions reside in the way it implicates the audience – both visually and spatially – in her fabrications of nature. For example, it is only upon a close inspection that her large snow-capped mountain peak images reveal themselves as paint-coated concrete slabs mounted on cardboard; their initial illusory vastness thus become vertiginous. Yet, if Goudal attempts a trompe-l’œil, it is intentionally flawed, for she does not set out to conceal the models’ constructedness, but instead puts it centre-stage. Her manipulations are even more ambiguous in Décantation (2021), which, on the contrary, are most impactful when viewed from afar. Achieved through a process of printing on water-soluble paper and rephotographing, small, subtle iterations narrate an imaginary washing-out – or “dissolving” – across time. Over the suite of photographs, the rock formations melt, like glaciers. It’s here that Goudal, chillingly, shows us the complicity between the desire to see and the desire to destroy. 

4. Patricia Conde Galería

One of the toughest and most transcendental viewings at this year’s fair comes from Cannon Bernáldez’s El estado normal de las cosas (2022), which is on show at Mexico City’s Patricia Conde Galería. Translating to The normal state of things, the piece sees Bernáldez communicate her experience of being assaulted through the language of fragmentation: an arrangement of 105 silver gelatin prints each depict her wounded hand. By way of burning as well as solarising – extreme, continuous and multiple overexposures of the photographic film – Bernáldez touches on the violence of inhabiting a physical, female body. Just as symbolically loaded is the work of Yael Martínez, represented here by a grid of nine new photographs that tell a dark and fractured tale of contemporary life in Mexico. For all his sublime, fantastical lyricism, Martínez channels an attuned physicality, spirit of resistance and sense of rootedness. Meanwhile, there is a special opportunity to view a portfolio of delectably printed Mary Ellen Mark photographs documenting vibrant happenings at Mexican circuses. Their joyousness and eccentricities make it clear why Mark considered the circus “a metaphor for everything that has always fascinated me visually.” 

5. Jean-Vincent Simonet, Heirloom
Sentiment

Since its inauguration in 2018, the Curiosa sector has been charged with injecting cutting-edge elements into the fair. And this year is no different as Holly Roussell’s energetic curation certainly continues in this vein. Jean-Vincent Simonet’s meta-experiments that form Sentiment’s booth are interesting because they fuse analogue photography and digital techniques in a way that feels more terminal than future. Comprising a classic hang of 12 unique pieces – images of, and made at, the printing factory that has belonged to the artist’s family across three generations – Heirloom (2022) turns its attention to the instruments of production: ink tanks, paper trash and cleaning tools. Whilst they lack the exuberant, excessive fetishism of his fashion work and nudes, they retain all the entropic impulsivity and vivid luminosity that makes Simonet’s work so seductive. Using and abusing industrial printers – through what appears to be a frenzied combination of false settings, plastic foils, drying, washing, rinsing and fingertip smudging – Simonet has manufactured and modified images that bear an uncanny resemblance to painting. Although the ink sometimes seeps into the white bleed, their “aliveness” is actually deceptive, for the lead frames bestow a sense that what we are really looking at are reliquaries: elegiac witnesses of an approaching demise.

6. Kensuke Koike, Versus
Goliga Editions

Kensuke Koike entrances once again with a series of mind-bending photo-sculptures at Goliga Editions, whose presentation is one of the most mesmerising and unique of the book sector. The brass and ebony-wooden frames of Versus (2022) create a kind of playground for the collagist extraordinaire, housing 16 loose acrylic bars that display four original vintage prints on each of its sides. Sliced and spliced with razor-sharp precision (it had to be so, because he had only one shot), Koike’s hand-made assemblages, despite their obvious Surrealist twist, in the end defy any “ism”. For one can switch, rotate and recombine the puzzles to activate wonderful metamorphoses – from human to floral and back again – thereby giving these once abandoned relics the chance to live a large, albeit mathematically finite, number of other lives. As for the rolling, cloud-shaped slider that glides across the base to animate the image, it might border on the gimmicky, but there’s no denying its amusement and charm. Nothing and everything is left to chance for Koike, who offers us a most pure form of visual pleasure: play.

Paris Photo runs at the Grand Palais Éphémère until 13 November 2022.

Alex Merola is Assistant Editor at 1000 Words.

Images:

1-Boris Mikhailov, The Theatre of War, Second Act, Time Out (2013). Courtesy the artist and Galerie Suzanne Tarasieve.

2-Boris Mikhailov, Tea, Coffee, Cappuccino (2000–10). Courtesy the artist and Galerie Suzanne Tarasieve.

3-Daido Moriyama, The Artist’s Bedroom (2008). Courtesy the artist and Jean-Kenta Gauthier.

4-Hanako Murakami, The Immaculate #D5 (2019). Courtesy the artist and Jean-Kenta Gauthier.

5-Noémie Goudal, Mountain III (2021). Courtesy the artist and Galerie Les filles du Calvaire. 

6-Cannon Bernáldez, El estado normal de las cosas (2022). Courtesy the artist and Patricia Conde Galería.

7-Jean-Vincent Simonet, Door (2022). Courtesy the artist and Sentiment.

8-Jean-Vincent Simonet, Untitled #5 (2022). Courtesy the artist and Sentiment.

9-Kensuke Koike, Versus #12 (2022). Courtesy the artist and Goliga Editions.

10-Kensuke Koike, Versus #17 (2022). Courtesy the artist and Goliga Editions.

Daido Moriyama

Pantomime

Akio Nagasawa Publishing

With thin pages between organic-feeling cloth covers, this slight book of photographs seems as delicate and fragile as life itself. Its first image, shot from a dispassionate distance, could be of a tiny pair of strange prawns, touching at the tail. But the next picture, a distressing close-up, dispels any illusion of the non-human: what look like two cowering newborns hug each other, all wrinkled skin and baby-fat wrists. Visual correspondence between two images – common and commonly inconsequential in photobooks – has rarely been used with such life-and-death profundity. For these are not prawns or live babies. They are dead embryos and dead foetuses.

Heartrending yet detached and neutral, Moriyama’s stream of never-borns ebbs and flows between the amorphous and the gravely human. Potent individual images abound: a male silhouette’s hands are stretched out, as if trying to grab onto life; another is dumped upside-down into a translucent bag, the human treated inhumanely. But most powerful of all is a recurring luminous figure, its face to the floor, seemingly trying to crawl. Immobile, we see it from behind, from above, from the side: a few grainy, refulgent pictures of apparent failure which stand for all human helplessness and despair. Nothing could be further from the globally-celebrated scientific wonder of Lennart Nilsson’s roughly contemporaneous pre-natal foetus photographs.

Made over half a century ago, Moriyama’s pictures reflect his embryonic career as a struggling young photographer. But they offer much more. Most of them are ethereal, almost unreal, and the heartbreak they provoke is all the stronger for their sensitivity and gentleness. They also demonstrate a level of traditional technical accomplishment and control not readily associated with an artist best known for rejecting photographic conventions and pushing his medium to a new frantic extreme of unfocused grain and blur.

Most importantly, Pantomime is the work of a young image-maker who is already a true artist, even before finding what we think of as his own photographic voice. At a very early stage of his development, Moriyama created the base material he has now formed into one of his finest photobooks.

Simon Bowcock

Images by Simon Bowcock, courtesy Akio Nagasawa and © Daido Moriyama

Daido Moriyama

a room

Essay by Jean-Kenta Gauthier

Renown for his urgent, blurry photographs of street scenes, experimental approaches to printed matter and vast dissemination of images, Daido Moriyama has in effect been working on a room in his own apartment since the 1970s. These intimate, black and white photographs, with their strong erotic undertones, offer a glimpse into Moriyama’s daily life. Mixing depictions of female nudes — often pictured from angles in which the models’ faces are kept obscured — with shots of banal and ordinary domestic situations, this works suggests a voyeuristic approach in which the artist is simultaneously a participant and observer of his own intimate, private documentary. Asserting both a sense of control over the actions and containment in its rendering, a room represents the diary of an artist, now aged 77, who for over five decades has harnessed photography’s power to revive memories like no other.

On February 14-15, 2015, Daido Moriyama held a ‘printing show’ performance in Akio Nagasawa gallery in Tokyo, using the entire selection of 67 photographs included in a room. The event, during which 600 unique copies of a book of the same name were produced, marked the fourth recreation of Moriyama’s now famous book-making performance since the original underground exhibition from 1974. It was also the first time Moriyama would reorganise such an event in Tokyo, as the three other venues were located in the US (Aperture Foundation, New York 2011), the UK (Tate Modern, London, 2012) and France (Le Bal, Paris, 2013).

‘Printing show’, a term coined by Moriyama, puts the process of creating a photobook at the heart of the event. That week of March 1974, participants were asked to select a fixed number of his images from a grid displayed on a wall, determine their order and then have them printed on location using a photocopy machine before assembling and stapling their own unique copy together. Each would be signed and accompanied by a silkscreen cover and the book, entitled Another Country in New York, ushering in a brand of performance art applied to the creation of a photobook.

Daido Moriyama has confessed to me that his favourite book is Andy Warhol’s catalogue for his exhibition held in 1968 at Modern Museet in Stockholm. Less a traditional museum catalogue, this historical book conveyed Warhol’s aesthetics without heavy use of text. Made of a stream of black and white images with a colourful silkscreen cover showing Warhol’s famous flower motif, this publication shares many similarities, despite its size and pagination, with Moriyama’s 2015’s a room or the aforementioned Another Country in New York.

Daido Moriyama has also made appropriation, a core idea in Warhol’s oeuvre, a key concept in his work. Over the course of a long and prolific career, photographs of posters or television screens, i.e. images of images, have become legion. The work that is the most representative of this principle is probably Accident, a volume of 12 series published each month throughout 1969 in the Japanese magazine Asahi Camera. Each series, wonderfully titled Premeditated or not, consists of photographing magazine pages or television screens ranging from incidents such as car crashes to murder cases, and other instances of violence, unrest and depravation. The premise of a ‘printing show’ naturally extends the appropriation principle further by enabling not only the artist but the public to make Moriyama’s images their own. It closes the gap between author and audience, message and medium. One could also add that, as is the case with a room, Moriyama has reached his utmost level of de-appropriation by letting the participants appropriate and edit what can be considered as the artist’s most intense images of highly personal memories.

During his 2011 printing show at Aperture Foundation, one particular participant chose to repeat the same image throughout her copy, which was a surprise to Daido Moriyama who smiled wryly when he discovered the singular sequence. By transmitting images, the ‘printing show’ fits into the wider discussion on the nature of visual communication. Moriyama, himself, has said the following on the matter: “When I sign each book, I open the book and look at the image on the first page, and I think ‘aah… this person chose this image!’ I kind of see the person’s character and taste. I find it very interesting. To tell the truth, I would like to see every page of what everyone has selected. For example, even without seeing the person’s face or their daily life and work, I think there is a moment of communication with them through photography.”

Often referring to the idea of a photograph being a “fossil of light and time” that is updated or reanimated every time it is seen by a viewer, Moriyama has focused his attention on the moment when one of his single memories potentially encounter those belonging to the viewer. In this sense, his ‘printing shows’, given that they let the viewers recontextualise Moriyama’s memories in the most tangible way, ultimately consist in a form of confrontation with memories. They represent the most advanced formula of the artist’s intention, of which a room is the latest and most generous manifestation. Moriyama says it best: “A single photograph contains different images.”

All images courtesy of the artist, Akio Nagasawa Gallery and Jean-Kenta Gauthier. © Daido Moriyama Foundation.


Jean-Kenta Gauthier is the founder of a Paris-based contemporary art gallery. He has also partnered with Clément Kauter and Akio Nagasawa on Circulation, a new laboratory space dedicated to artists’ books, opening on 13 November with an inaugural show of Daisuke Yokota’s new work entitled Inversion.