Book Review 8
Yamanashi, 1987 © Daido Moriyama
Tokyo, 1992 © Daido Moriyama
Shinjuku, 2002 © Daido Moriyama
New York, 1971 © Daido Moriyama
Kanagawa, 1985 © Daido Moriyama
Tokyo, 2006 © Daido Moriyama
Silent Theater, 1965 © Daido Moriyama
Shonan, 1967 © Daido Moriyama
Hippie Crime, 1969 © Daido Moriyama
Hippie Crime, 1970 © Daido Moriyama
Osaka, 1997 © Daido Moriyama
Shinjuku, 2002 © Daido Moriyama
Searching Journeys, 1971© Daido Moriyama
Daido Hysteric, 1994© Daido Moriyama
Tokyo, 1978 © Daido Moriyama
Fundoshi, 1969 © Daido Moriyama
Daido Moriyama, cover © Daido Moriyama
Rummelsnuff, Berlin — 2008, By Miron Zownir from The Valley of the Shadow, © Gestalten 2010
Berlin — 1979, By Miron Zownir from The Valley of the Shadow, © Gestalten 2010
Moscow, 1995, By Miron Zownir from The Valley of the Shadow © Gestalten 2010
Berlin, 2002, By Miron Zownir from The Valley of the Shadow © Gestalten 2010
Ben Becker, Berlin — 2006, By Miron Zownir from The Valley of the Shadow © Gestalten 2010
Moscow — 1998, By Miron Zownir from The Valley of the Shadow © Gestalten 2010
Berlin 1980, By Miron Zownir from The Valley of the Shadow © Gestalten 2010
Moscow, 1998, By Miron Zownir from The Valley of the Shadow © Gestalten 2010
Zurich, 2009, By Miron Zownir from The Valley of the Shadow © Gestalten 2010
Berlin, 2007, By Miron Zownir from The Valley of the Shadow © Gestalten 2010
San Vincente, Spain, 2010, By Miron Zownir from The Valley of the Shadow © Gestalten 2010
By Miron Zownir from The Valley of the Shadow © Gestalten 2010
Daido Moriyama, The World Through My Eyes (Skira)
“Practically all of the reality projected before my eyes is a mystery, that’s why I explore it,” Daido Moriyama says in the introduction to his book The World Through My Eyes (Skira). Moriyama’s world, as we learn through the 440 breathtaking pages of this compact monograph, is a place where even the most banal aspects of life become powerful, poignant, and provocative moments. Resonating between extreme, these images reveal a darker side to Japanese life, one that seems both foreign and familiar at the same time.
As Moriyama explains, “This enigma has various facets: eroticism, suffering, amusement… There are many elements, which, as a whole, undoubtedly constitute a never-ending puzzle. The raison d’être of photography lies here, in its capacity to represent this conundrum, but without the obligation or the responsibility of arriving at a solution, of unraveling the mystery. It is not possible to understand through one or even a hundred photographs. It’s like a riddle. More than a mystery, it seems to me like a maze. Walking through the city is like walking through a maze for me. I don’t want to provide answers, I prefer to leave the question unsolved, to leave the query about what is before us hanging there, even after looking at the images.”
Indeed, it is the countless questions raised by each and every image, and the fact that answers may never come that makes his work so fascinating. Some 220 photographs, arranged as full bleeds, follow one after the other, so that the cumulative effect is compellingly overwhelming. With ever turn of the page we enter a new space, a place we have never been and may never go, a place we want to understand but will never know. It seems we have been here before, but maybe only in a dream world.
Moriyama’s photographs resonate with emotion and pathos to create a mesmerizing impact. A skillful blend of composition and subject, textures and technology convey an array of all senses. By shooting in black and white, we are able to experience the world in its essence, without the soothing use of color to distract us from the matters at hand.
Moriyama further explains, “The external surface that appears before my eyes constitutes a stimulus that unleashes an impulse, a reaction. I walk through the city streets with my camera, constantly bombarded by these stimuli. With my camera I am able to produce a reaction to these manifold solicitation, to respond to them. It is a constant repartee between reality and Daido.” And now, through The World Through My Eyes, this repartee comes to us in a beautifully produced volume that seems to be without beginning and without end.
Miron Zownir, The Valley of the Shadow: The Photography (Die Gestalten Verlag)
The Valley of the Shadow: The Photography of Miron Zownir (Die Gestalten Verlag) takes us to another kind of dark world. Here, we see the most bleak and desolate aspects of our existence. Zownir photographs without romanticism, without sentimentality, without reprieve. Demons inhabit these pages, and the world—whether it is New York, Berlin, Moscow, Bucharest, London, Sofia, Lourdes, or San Vincente—has become a grim and morbid place.
As Zownir explains, “My pictures rarely reveal the time of their making. They all look as if they were from the 1950s. I guess post-war Germany has influenced me more than anything else. I was born in 1953, right after the war. I have haunting childhood memories of crippled veterans, mutilated widows, and total nutcases with foam around their mouths. And all those ruins! It was like living in a Kafka novel.”
Homeless men and women share pages with patrons of sex clubs. A strange combination of characters if there ever was. It feels so extreme, this space between saint and sinner, and looking at the images, the questions begin. It is not quite empathy that draws us in, but the ability to look, to stare even, at that which we are forbidden. With these images, can gaze relentlessly upon those we do not know and do not understand. We can wonder how it is that we, as a society, have come to this—or we can celebrate the ability of each of us to choose our own destinies, for the better or for the worse.
Zownir continues, “People need a release. In this respect there is no difference between a person lying in a corner high on heroin dreaming of God and a poor old blind woman who goes to Lourdes and listens to sermons for hours, hoping this will affect her personal crisis in some way, We are talking about loneliness and misery and individual ways of dealing with them.”
Indeed the gorilla behind bars at a zoo in New York is as tragic a figure as the man on his knees, crawling through the dirt in Berlin. They say happiness is fleeting, but it feels as though in Zownir’s world, it is what has never been. A deep sadness, an inestimable emptiness, a feeling that life is passing by so slowly it aches infects these images with an eerie echo that is hard to shake.
Perhaps it is as Zownir explains, “My pictures show that the world will never change. There will always be rich and poor; there will always be a caste of privileged people and others who have nothing. All I do is draw people’s attention to certain conditions, without judgment…. To document someone dying on the street means providing information on something that shouldn’t be happening.” And yet it does because more often than not, we are caught up in ourselves. Zownir’s photographs give us that rare ability to consider what it means to live as the Other.