Farewell Photography is the book that really cemented Daido Moriyama’s name. Sure, he was already famous for his work with Provoke, but Farewell Photography was a statement. This version is the 2020 AkioNagasawa canvas-bound reprint of the 2012 edition, and now with 1 image per page (according to text at the end of this version).
Sadly, though completely reasonably due to cost, I have no experience with earlier printings (and versions) of Farewell Photography. I have a great deal of experience with the Akio Nagasawa canvas-bound Moriyama books, with at least 6 of them in my collection, and the format is… fine. I wonder, though, if earlier editions, with images printed across the gutter (again, according to text at the back of the Nagasawa edition) hewed a bit closer to the “farewell photography” of the title. I guess Moriyama had some say in the reprint, and maybe he knows best about how his book of aure, bure, boke photography from 50 years ago should be remade.
Even more sadly, this 2020 edition is a reprint of the 2012 edition, which was itself a wholly new edition made up of different images than earlier printings. It seems some of the negatives from the series were lost, and that Moriyama selected the 78 images (in this edition, anyway: again, I don’t know how many were in the 2012 printing or earlier editions) from whatever he had available from the general period. I’m not mad about this, and if I hadn’t sworn off of Moriyama books—and mindless photobook acquisition in general—I’d be trying to track down a pre-2012 printing instead of writing this review and trying desperately to justify the cost….
Anyway. This edition/printing of Farewell Photography is lovely-enough. The paper feels a bit thin and cheap, much like standard semigloss laser printer paper, but I expect it’s acid free and will hold up over time. If I keep it in the plastic sleeve it came in—and I plan to—the paper might not even yellow for many many years and the images are sharp, or sharply printed, and clear. Of course, the images throughout are what one might expect from a book titled, in Japanese, Shashin yo Sayonara, and, like Hiromix’s Girls Blue wasn’t about sad girls, Moriyama isn’t really saying “bye bye” to photography. Rather he’s bidding “so long” to the rules of proper image making (as they were known at the time, and as many how-to books still insist upon).
Many of Moriyma’s themes are apparent already—women seen on the street; patterns; the glamour of late nights and alleys—but they’re not as common as in later work. There are more landscapes, more village scenes, and more images of nothing in Farewell Photography than in the later work with which I’m familiar. And the whole idea of the book in fact, is that mistakes, errors, failures of technique or technology or materials are beautiful and worth celebrating. This in particular distinguishes Moriyama’s work from other practitioners of high-contrast black and white at the time (*cough William Klein cough*). Now, my memory is fuzzy, but I don’t recall Kline publishing images featuring strong light leaks or where the camera was accidentally opened. In fact, after New York he moved into painting, video, and fashion and didn’t go back to burnt black & white again, as far as I know. If Moriyama picked up the mantle, he did so on his own terms and Farewell Photography clinches it. And if Moriyama didn’t put out another book like Farewell…, he learned from the selection process for the book (and exhibition), if not the making of the images themselves, and skillfully deployed these “mistakes” in later work up to the present day, even after he switched to digital. Sure, the light leaks and whatnot disappeared—such errors are largely impossible with digital photography (without resorting to Photoshop or Hipstamatic, anyway)—but the missed focus and intentional blur continues. And, really, it’s glorious.
Overall, I rate Farewell Photography a strong 4 stars. It’s not as revolutionary in 2023 as it was in 1973, but it works. And if you need a second Moriyama book, this is probably the one to go for.
Your first, and maybe only, Moriyama book should probably be the super cheap and easily available Phaidon 55 pocket monograph. If you need another one, Farewell Photography might be a good choice, if you can find a reasonably priced copy. At time of writing, the Akio Nagasawa canvas bound version featured here remains available, and it’s cheaper than any other version, so it might be a good choice. And maybe I’m too hard on Moriyama. Maybe there’s more to get from his work. I hope so, as I have two or three (or five) more books of his, plus a set of postcards (which I probably won’t bother to review) and a split book with Shomei Thomatsu to look at and try to find something (new) to write about. What privilege I enjoy. Allahu Akbar (God is greater!)!