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I remembered how my friend told me how he was a genius, and how incredible his black and white work was. Not only that, but Daido inspires me for his curiosity in life and only sees photography as a way to document how amazing the world truly is.
I know you guys must be sick of my list posts by now, but I prefer to write in that manner as it is easier to organize my thoughts. So with no further adieu, here are some lessons that Daido Moriyama has taught me about street photography. We often talk about the difference between shooting with a DSLRs vs rangefinders, the difference of using zoom lenses vs prime lenses, and even the technical settings attached to it. However at the end of the day, photography should be about taking photos— not just obsessing over cameras.
Good camera, good lens, Leica, etc. These were the masters of a photographer. But in a way, Daido Moriyama is a photographer who started to make the camera his own slave. Photography is not about the camera. Of course we need the camera.
If you want to write a romantic love letter, we need some tool to write it with. But anything— a pencil or a ball pen is fine. It is like this in photography, and he is a pioneer for that. He shoot mostly black and white film, but has actually moved onto digital recently. And when you do this, you want to have perfect focus. The moment which you want to capture does not fit your feeling, if you do this. If you are using a compact camera, it is simple.
You can simply point, click, and let the camera do the rest autofocus, exposure, etc. According to Daido, it allows you to focus more on the photography and the feeling of the moment— rather than fumbling around with settings on the camera. Not only that, but another huge benefit of shooting with a compact camera is the fact that it tends to be a lot less threatening than a big SLR. He basically borrowed a camera from someone. And it somehow becomes his own camera, or he got one from someone.
Any camera is fine. It is only the means of taking a photo. He just took the first camera he was given, and went out and photographed what he found interesting. Just go out and shoot. I stepped out of the hotel in the morning to go out for a photo shoot, the dog was just there. So I immediately took several pictures. Snapshots are all about an instant moment and this dog instantly became a part of me. I am actually honored to be compared with that dog.
He wanders the streets for hours on end, with no real destination in mind. He goes into the back alleys that most people are afraid to go, and photographs whatever he finds interesting. I like taking snapshots in the movement of both myself and the outside world. When I walk around I probably look like a street dog because after walking around the main roads, I keep wandering around the back streets. And especially overwhelming in its expressiveness.
I love to observe the people in cities, in which an uncanny scent floats. I love to burrow in mysterious lanes. To detect the unusual scent guided by my own sense of smell. Takeaway point: When it comes to street photography, serendipity is key. I think this especially applies when it comes to traveling and shooting street photography. If we ever visit a foreign country, we feel obligated to shoot in certain landmarks of the city Eiffel tower anyone?
However in my experience it is the touristy parts of a city which are the worst to photograph— and it is the places off-the-beaten-path which make the most interesting photographs. Be unburdened by a goal or a destination.
But I never get bored. Everyone has desires. The quality and the volume of those desires change with age. But that desire is always serious and real. Photography is an expression of those desires. So that way of thinking or speaking is nonsense to me. Completely meaningless. What amazes Daido most about the world? As I walk through it my senses are reaching out.
And I am drawn to all sorts of things. And as I search for my own desires within them, I slice into time, seeing the moment. I am definitely addicted to cities. Fifty years have lapsed and with the thousands of photographs I have taken, I still find photography amazing. There are still millions of things and people that are worthy to be shot.
Many street photographers I know tend to get bored of photographing where they live myself included. How does Daido manage to photograph the streets of Tokyo and more specifically Shinjuku for over 50 years? One of the beauties of street photography is that regardless of where you photograph whether it be a suburb, a mall, a city-center, or even a beach the moments which you photograph will never be the same. You will never get the same exact person wearing the same outfit in the same exact spot, with the same exact light, and the same exact expression or look in their face.
Always look for the silver lining in street photography. Strive to take better photographs, to explore more, and to find the nuances in the city or place in which you live. Why is that? Well I would surmise that contemporary street photographers love the sense of nostalgia associated with black and white. After all, all of the masters shot in black and white. But then again, that is all they had. Now we have the option of shooting in black and white or color. Yet, most street photographers I have seen gravitate still more towards black and white.
Daido has shot the vast majority of his street photography in black and white. Monochrome has stronger elements of abstraction or symbolism. This is perhaps an element of taking you to another place. Black and white has that physical effect on me. It tends to be more abstract, symbolic, and helps us see the world in a unique and novel way. If I am out wandering and I see photographs hung on the walls of a restaurant, say, if they are black and white, I get a rush!
That is the difference between the two. So what interests me is seeing my own work differently: the new, vague feeling of accepting the color work as my own.
That is where I am now. At that vague, flickering stage. Based on my personal experiences, I have found that when I am shooting in black and white or color I see the world in a different way. However now that I am working exclusively in color, I look for bright hues, contrasts of different colors, vivid advertisements, and signs of consumerism. It is thought of being unintentional, amateurish, and uninteresting.
Especially of their daily lives. The casual attitude toward photography is the same as mine. There is nothing right or wrong. At first sight a photograph looks straightforward as it slices off a scene or a moment in time. But the images that photography captures are actually ambiguous.
However, when it is presented in front of different viewers various perspectives will be developed by viewers, which will enrich the content of the photo. Therefore taking a photo of the present is to preserve it. That is the essence of photography. Your feeling is always a reflection of the photo you produce. The past cannot be captured by the present. And the future also cannot be captured by the present. The present can only be captured in the moment. At the end of the day, it is less about the people you capture on the streets— and more of a self-reflection of who you are as a person and how you see the world.
Take a casual approach to street photography by always carrying your camera with you everywhere you go, and take snapshots of whatever you find interesting. Rather, revel in it as I feel that the beauty of a snapshot is how open and democratic it is.
Often times photographers can be quite pretentious about their work.
Books by Daido Moriyama
Daido Moriyama: The World Through My Eyes
5 Lessons Daido Moriyama Has Taught Me About Street Photography