In, Hawaii, his 56th book of photographs, Japanese photographer Daido Moriyama reproduces our Technicolor paradise in grainy, highly contrasted black and white images, composed in his recognizable, unleveled angles and distorting, quick-shot aesthetic. He traveled to the islands five times between 2004 and 2007 and made at over 300 images, 270 of which can be found in Hawaii. Several of his prints are on view in the University of Hawaii at Manoa art gallery’s exhibition, Framing Paradise, a show that examines the endurance of Waikiki’s attraction to photographers that also features antique shapshots from early Hawaiian picture-makers such as Lawrence Hata, William Pitchford, Jerome Baker, and Tai Sing Loo, and an impressive spread by Eric Yanagi (Waikiki ’71). Moriyama will return to O’ahu for a live discussion with Dr. John Szostak, UH Associate Professor of Japanese Art History and Art History Area Chair, at UH’s art auditorium on Nov. 28 at 6:30pm. We reached Moriyama through email and translation via Sohey Moriyama, his nephew and the director of the Daido Moriyama Photographic Foundation. Unfortunately, Moriyama was unavailable for follow-up questions, but that just means we’ll have to go to the lecture and ask him face-to-face. The art gallery, by the way, will remain open until the lecture starts, so it goes without saying that it would be a good idea to scope out his photographs before you hear the man talk about them.
Mr. Moriyama, your work centers heavily in highly contrasted, grainy black and white film, which is slowly being replaced by digital mediums. What do you think about photography’s evolution, and how do you see it affecting your work in the future?
Tools are always changing with its evolution. If there have been technical changes [that have] happened, I do not change my style by its evolution to record the world around me. For recording purposes, photography does not change in terms of its possibilities and abilities.
Having published over 60 books, you are quite a prolific photographer. How does your creativity stay active? Are you seeking to solve anything through photography?
I still have desires for shooting and recording the world I live. I am not seeking to solve anything; the world is always changing and moving, therefore I keep shooting along its stream.
What are your thoughts on the state of the art as it is today, with so much value on and use of digital filters and cell phone photography? Everyone has a camera now. Does that impact photography as art?
I do not care if photography is an art or not. However, I believe that taking photographs is a means of copying the world. If people [are] taking photographs by [a] small digital camera or cell phone–if I say that taking photographs mean to stop the world–cell phone photography is still [a] good way to take photographs.
Why did you choose Hawaii as a photographic subject? And why did you choose to come out in those years (2004–2007)?
I was thinking to visit Hawaii and take photographs for long time. It was just after I published Shinjuku (2002), with [the] realities happening in Tokyo, I naturally [began] to think that I had to take photographs of Hawaii now. I was very much interested in the place and climate where there is immigrant [Japanese] culture of more than 100 years.
Japan has a very vibrant photography culture, and it supports smaller prints and photo books, which is different from American photography culture. Why do you think this is?
Japan has [a] long photography culture, much before WW2, which had various ways of expression even in that era, [and] still have many possibilities since then. I think the culture has very much matured in Japan. There might have been differences in terms of the subjects between Japan and Western culture, but I basically think there are not many differences.
What are your current projects or issues you wish to examine, through photography?
I will keep shooting in Japan and other cities all over the world where I am interested. In [the] near future, I [plan to] take photographs through the Japanese Archipelago again.