How to Create a Beautiful Picture by Daido Moriyama

Daido Moriyama rose to prominence as part of the Provoke movement during the 1960s in Japan. The movement centred around the magazine of the same name, which sought to break with tradition, freeing photography from its established tropes. Moriyama developed a radically new aesthetic for photography, influenced by American photographer William Klein, in which he blurred his photographs and employed strong contrasts to dramatic effect. Moriyama’s photographs captured the cultural shift that occurred in Japan following the Second World War, documenting the seedy and often unseen underworld of Tokyo’s backstreets.

Sitting with his girlfriend one morning in 1986, Moriyama glimpsed her legs dressed in fishnet tights. Drawn to the eroticism of the patterns and form of his girlfriend’s legs, Moriyama took several photographs, which would become the first in his ongoing project Tights. The series marks a rupture from his street photography, and the beginnings of a more concentrated study of visual form. Moriyama has stated, ‘being a photographer is a constant battle with countless fragments; the camera allows me to get closer to a subject and capture its detail.’ In Tights, as with his street photography, Moriyama’s lens focused on details that were often overlooked.

This example from Moriyama’s series, shot in extreme close-up, blurs and blends the woman’s legs into stereographic forms. Employing the same graphic, strong contrasts that he used in his street photography, Moriyama emphasises the chiaroscuro to highlight the curves of the model’s thigh and the repetition of the black lines of the tights. The stark lighting simultaneously reveals and obscures the model’s form, breaking down the image into fragments and presenting the body in a completely innovative way.

Moriyama’s reduction of the image to a surface of textures and forms heightens the fetishistic tones that permeate the photograph. The photographer is particularly interested in the eroticism of small everyday details and his work sits within the narrative of bondage and eroticism that has become a prevalent theme within contemporary Japanese photography.

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