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‘Daido Moriyama: Tsugaru’

by Jae Lee

Taka Ishii Gallery, Tokyo

Closes Dec. 18

Daido Moriyama started taking photographs in the 1960s and has since become a cultural icon across the world. “Tsugaru,” showcases images he took during the mid 1970s in Tsugaru plain and Goshogawara in northeastern Aomori Prefecture.

In a style that Moriyama has become known for, these black-and-white photographs are artistically grainy, evoking a sense of trepidation and nostalgia. The glass plates of the frames reflect the viewers’ own image across his work, making them voyeurs of his experience.

Moriyama has had countless shows and published many books, and yet he is never boring. His recent exhibitions have shown a tendency to focus on locations, such as “Shinjuku” (2002) and “Hawaii” (2007), which Moriyama himself has claimed to have no specific symbolism or sentimentality.

“Tsugaru,” however, delves into his personal life.

Moriyama is known to have always been fond of northern Honshu areas, visiting often and even renting an apartment in Sapporo, Hokkaido, as a base for a photo trip in the early ’70s. In 1976, however, while on the way to Hokkaido, Moriyama made a stop at Goshogawara. It was there and in the surrounding Tsugaru region that he took photos that reflect a major turning point in his life as a photographer.

At that time, Moriyama and his photography partner Takuma Nakahira began to drift apart stylistically, with Nakahira choosing to move on to color photography. Nakahira also suffered from a bout of alcohol poisoning that caused irreversible amnesia overnight. While still mourning this “loss” of a close friend, another trusted friend of Moriyama, a chief editor of a photography magazine who helped elevate the photographer’s career, took his own life.

This traumatic time took its toll on Moriyama, who admitted to turning to illegal drugs in an attempt to deal with the overwhelming emotions he experienced. “Tsugaru” is the first time these photos, taken at such a significant point in Moriyama’s life, are being shown together. Fifty-five of the 82 photographs he took for “Tsugaru” are on display; one of which was taken this year. All 82 images can be seen in the “Tsugaru” photo book also published by the gallery.

Taka Ishii Gallery is in the Kiyosumi complex, Koto-ku, Tokyo; open 12 p.m.-7 p.m., closed Sun. and Mon. For more information, visit www.takaishiigallery.com/en/exhibitions