Examining Urban Terrains

Examining Urban Terrains

In a new exhibition at Michael Hoppen Gallery, London, a rare collection of vintage prints by Daidō Moriyama (b.1938) is on display. As one of the most important 20th century Japanese artists, Moriyama’s work has become known for its unique take on street photography, which captures the grit and desire of city living through a stark and uncompromising lens. Running in conjunction with a major show at Barbican, the compositions celebrate Moriyama’s distinctive examination of the clandestine and lesser-known sides of city streets.

Drawing inspiration from William Klein, Moriyama’s investigation into the the decay of city life seeks out the same sense of confrontation that is at stake in Klein’s iconic images New York streets. The connection between these two influential photographers has already been explored in a major exhibition at Tate Modern in 2013, which was received with critical acclaim. Nods to Andy Warhol’s silkscreens and a paradigm shifting approach to contemporary life can also be detected in Moriyama’s practice, which has been on display in numerous public and private collections, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York, The Getty Museum, Los Angeles, The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and The Centre Pompidou, Paris.

Living through WWII, the effects of contemporary conflict made a profound impression on Moriyama, something that can be seen in his  compelling understanding of permeable borders between the personal and political. Anti-war demonstrations and the impact of urban deprivation are pictured alongside intimate and erotic close-ups captures through an investigative and enigmatic approach.

As the most celebrated photographer to emerge from the Japanese PROVOKE movement of the 1960s – now approaching his 80th birthday – Moriyama’s artistic roots grew out of a politically charged and anti-establishment ethos. This has fed into both the form and content of his photographs, which are captivatingly brutal, making use of a deeply emotive monochrome palette.

Celia Graham-Dixon

Daidō Moriyama is at Michael Hoppen Gallery, London, from 22 February. Find out more here.

1. Daido Moriyama, Provoke no. 2, 1969. Courtesy of Michael Hoppen Gallery.