It was 2020-21, and I was an impulsive photobook-buying so-and-so. Over about 16 months, I bought nearly a dozen Daido Moriyama books. It might just be these purchases that led me to essentially stop buying photobooks entirely….
I don’t mean to disparage the master. Moriyama is a master of his craft. He is a PHOTOGRAPHER, full stop. I’m a hack on a good day and know next to nothing about Japan, being Japanese, or shooting like a world famous photographer who was around for Provoke and shot with Takuma Nakihara and that crowd. The Record series is a wonderful document of contemporary Japan, or, rather, of wherever the master shot the frames for a given issue. Given that, at time of writing, these number at least 50, I expect there’s a gold mine in there for archivists and historians, and anyone interested in Japan. As far as the photography itself goes, Moriyama knows what he’s doing, and his throwaways are better than my best shots. Still, individual issues of the Record series aren’t meant to be masterworks. It’s the project itself that holds the import, I think. Sure, some of the images may appear in later books or exhibitions; most won’t be seen again. It’s nice to see the better discards and to appreciate that even Moriyama sometimes just takes a random hip shot, and for that, it’s worth taking a look at one Record at least.
Moriyama made the photographs for Record #45 between April and June of 2020 while recovering from a health issue in his hometown(s) of Zushi and Shonan. Images for #46 were made at an unspecified time—Moriyama writes that when he”…took to the streets of Kabukicho that day….”* but is otherwise not specific about the date or if it was one or many days—in his Shinjuku, by all accounts, a photographer’s playground. There are clear differences between the two issues, as there are between the two locations, and Moriyama covers his usual themes—more about these later, if not in this review, then in later reviews of the many many other Moriyama books on the To-Review shelf—and the photographs are fresh: you’re not going to spot one that he reused from an earlier book or zine. And I’m grateful to have these two volumes of Record, both signed (they’re all be signed) and to have looked at them enough to pick up some very slight differences between the two.
#45 is sorta grittier and dirtier, maybe, with somewhat more focus on patterns; #46, made in Shinjuku, has more images of with young women in the frame, and have more life on the street. I wrote a bunch more about the differences, then looked at the books again and realized I had it all wrong, backwards, mixed up. Shonan and Zushi look like places to live and work; Shinjuku looks like a place to shop.
Deep in the recesses of my deeply fallible memory, I remember various photo people issuing dire warnings about Shinjuku, and I got the idea that maybe it was sorta like Deep Ellum. During the day, the Dallas neighborhood is home to a handful of rather upscale restaurants and boutiques, and at night it’s all bars and clubs, and a place where you can eff around and find out, for sure. Shinjuku looks far more prosperous and bigger, but it seems to have that air of rock & roll glamour about it, though maybe I’m projecting. And I’m probably just trying to come up with something to say….
Now. As regards my claim above that the glut of Moriyama purchases led me to stop buying photobooks. It’s not really true, not at all. The proximate cause was a private communication from Blake Andrews, who suggested I maybe knew enough about photobooks to not really need the—for me—variety. Once I determined to let my subscription lapse, I felt a general unease, and I forced myself to delete publisher emails without opening them. And with @swerdnaekalb moving his excellent reviews to Collector Daily and Instagram, and with me visiting neither very often, I was able to largely stop impulse-buying photobooks, and with the To-Review shelves still holding hundreds of books, it’s all just too heavy for me. And still, by the time I unboxed the last couple of Moriyama books, I was over him. William Klein’s claim that Moriyama as been making 1950s Klein pictures for 75 years is probably false, but has some kernel of truth in it. Later digital Moriyama is slightly less gritty, maybe, than earlier, pushed film Moriyama. It can’t be helped. The early Ricoh GRDs that Moriyama used had some great grit, but they cleaned up with the newer GRs, and whatever he used for these two issues of Record are cleaner yet, but it’s still all easily recognizable as Moriyama.
If you’ve seen one Moriyama, you haven’t seen them all, and still: a dozen Moriyama photobooks is probably too many, even for someone with ~500 or more photobooks in his library.
If you’re interested, both #45 and #46 are readily available, signed, and they’re fairly cheap, cheaper than the other books I bought in my Moriyama-binge. From my comic book collecting days—and I suspect this was manufactured, if not by Marvel and DC, then certainly by the comic book sellers—I feel a near compulsion to snag Issue 50 but I’m resisting, and seemingly successfully.
*Moriyama, Daido. Record No. 46. Akio Nagasawa, Ginza, Tokyo. 2021. Text in Japanese and English. unpaginated.