Ian Buruma at the NYRB:
One of Moriyama Daidō’s most famous black-and-white photographs is of a stray dog, a bit wolfish, with matted hair, looking back into the camera watchfully, with a hint of aggression. He took the picture in 1971 in Misawa, home to a large US Air Force base, in the northeast of Japan. Moriyama has described this dog picture as a kind of self-portrait:
I wander around, glare at things, and bark from time to time…. Something there is close to how I look at things and to how I probably appear when I’m wandering. Having become a photographer, I always sensed that I have strayed.
Most people can come up with a decent photograph once in a while, which will look like millions of other photographs. Only the greatest photographers can be easily identified by a unique personal style. Moriyama is one of them. There are some recurring images, in different settings, in color and black-and-white, many of which appear in the three books under review: the grainy close-up of a torn pornographic film poster on a peeling wall; a woman’s legs in mesh tights picked out in a crowded street; a filth-strewn back alley crisscrossed with electric wires; a blown-up newspaper photograph; net curtains in a cheap hotel room; a dilapidated old bar with broken neon lights. Moriyama has an exact eye for the textures of urban life, often decaying, ephemeral, sadly alluring in their temporary shine. In his photographs even inanimate objects, such as pipelines or motorcycle engines, have a vaguely anthropomorphic air about them; they look sexy.