Daido Moriyama is best known for his symbolic, gritty black-and-white photographs that reveal his introspective character and a quest to make sense of the chaotic world around him. It is fascinating to discover how dramatically different his colour photography is in this exhibition at the Fondation Cartier in Paris.
The Japanese photographer's colour pictures of the streets of Tokyo are softer and kinder, the edginess less prevalent. The inward-looking distance of his black-and white urban imagery is replaced by a sizzling vibrancy and an energy to instantly capture what lies in front of him. It's as if the act of shooting in colour propels Moriyama to photograph in another way.
“The black and white tells about my inner worlds, my emotions and deep feelings that I feel every day walking through the streets of Tokyo or other cities, as a vagabond aimlessly,” says Moriyama, 77. “The colour describes what I meet without any filters and I like to record the instant for the way it looks to me. The first one is rich in contrast, is harsh and fully reflects my solitary nature. The second one is polite, gentle, as I set myself towards the world.”
Making work that is “polite” and “gentle” is clearly less audacious. Moriyama's approach to abstracting his images, off-centre angling and isolating details remains his signature yet his colour work lacks the same punch.
Also on view is a black-and-white commission, Dog and Mesh Tights, of images that Moriyama took from July 2014 - March 2015 whilst visiting Tokyo, Hong Kong, Taipei, Arles, Houston and Los Angeles. The riveting pictures – from water coming out of a shower, to a woman's lipsticked mouth and a snake round a man's neck – form a pictorial travelogue. It is less urgent than his earlier work, suggestive of how Moriyama has mellowed with age.