Daido Moriyama and William Klein at the Tate

The exhibition seems to be seperated into two parts: One part ist about Daido Moriyama and another about William Klein. It’s not really visible, that the two parts are connected. Therefore arises the question, why then it’s one single exhibiton?

William Klein

William Klein studied at the Sorbonne in Paris after he grew up in New York. He was taught originally in painting by the famous abstract painter Fernand Léger.

Another famous person of that time was attentive to his film work and very captive of critizising it: American regisseur Orson Welles. Although Klein created work in a variety of disciplines, but, where he was most impressive and got known for, was photography.

Paris, Tokyo, New York, Moscow, Rome. William Klein seemed to have been in every big and important city of his time. He roamed the street photographing continuously, opening up parallels to Magnum photography, mostly in compositional terms. These “snapshots” were documentary, momentary and not set up. His black and white frames with faces and sceneries were often cut in a cool sense. He did also several paintings with Fernand Léger as an important inspirer. In the exhibition are also quite abstract negatives and photograms included, and films about dances and gatherings in Chad, the Kameron and at the 1968 student protests. Another series is dedicated to Mondrian and his native country Holland. Léger said to Klein, he should concentrate on the relationship between art and architecture.

A connection exists also to Chris Marker. He published William Klein’s book about New York: “Life is Good and Good for you in New York” (see http://www.americansuburbx.com/2011/02/william-klein-life-is-good-good-for-you.html).

klein_ny_cover-lg      klein_gun2

Tokyo and Rome were also more about patterns in street photography than fashion itself, for which is Klein mainly known for. In Tokyo 1961 he worked intensively with the light of the nights to gain contrasts of deep dark blacks as well as with the lights of shop logos and on the street. He also photographed bizarre performance-like street theaters, that are compared in the exhibition to a painting, which is archived through boxing on a wall. This wall is covered with canvas and the pictures show half naked men with freezed expressions.

The street photographs of New York tell us of a different way of photographing. Klein is somehow commited to the people around him in the street not as today, as everyone rushes through the street seemingly without connection or communication to the other people, who surround him/her. He also shows a lot of movement through blurrings and creates still a pattern with these different compositional items.

Daido Moriyama

Moriyama had a fascination with Shinjuku, a district of Tokio. He continued to photograph it from the 60s until today. In the beginning Daido was associated with the magazine “Provoke” and had also a fascination with consumerism and its seriality, in admiration for Andy Warhol.

The basic concept of the magazine “Provoke” was: “The world and reality are not only what they seem to be at first (a priori)”, because the human functions always the same way: It reduces the things it sees to its mere meaning. Around these issues the subjects of Daido were moving.

Like Andy Warhol Daido photographed Campbell’s soup cans. He saw the same products of Warhol, also “Brillo”-boxes, just with a japanese label. Also car crashes fascinated him, resulting in Gelatin silver prints on paper. They are very high contrast and have an outcome like a silkscreen print. In general, the picture style of Daido is very different from western photography.

All photographs are build with a strong visual scheme or on an arrangement of visual elements. Some of the photographs also remind me of high standard photojournalism. Moriyama’s basic philosophy was about exploration of the limits of photography: “Perhaps the authority of the failed negative, with all its inherent possibility, could be restored”. Daido said in the showed film, that he doesn’t throw away failed negatives. “It’s also part of reality”.

He also photographed still life objects and nature. It’s as much about the objects as it is about the interplay between light and shadow, that gives these objects structure. More then, light imprignates those objects and makes something different, magical out of them. They make the actual photograph, and not the object itself.

One of Moriyama’s central themes was to make a “reflection between the photographic image and the real world.”

Daido shoots in the street with a compact camera. It’s the pure form of snapshot photography.

Filippo Maggia compares Daido Moriyama’s working method with the protagonists of the literature of the Beat generation, like the theme of “roaming”, “wandering endlessly” through the streets, where “images and reality are the same thing”. Daido explains: “(…) recounting the streets and the people who animate them and bring them alive, in narrating reality. But the story is mine: it is not a news camera that is recording what is happening out there, but Daido telling you about the road he is following.” For him, photography is a means of recording what he experiences in the life, in “a particular moment”.

(Quote from Daido Moriyama, The World through My eyes, Milano 2010, Skira Editore s. p. a., p. 12)

Finally, there can be seen a connection between Moriyama and Klein. Latter photographed also in Japan, and to quote Vicki Goldberg from an article in The New York Times on Oct 3 1999: “Moriyama was shocked and influenced by William Klein’s book of photographs of New York (published 1957), with its raw vitality and confrontation, grotesqueries of the street and fierce disregard for technique.”

Here’s an interesting video from the show at the Tate Modern on american suburb x magazine: http://www.americansuburbx.com/2012/01/asx-tv-daido-moriyama-printing-show-2012.html

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