Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Daido Moriyama's Farewell Photography

I have never seen a copy of Daido Moriyama’s Sashin yo Sayonara (Bye Bye Photography) in person to say how it compares to the new edition published by Powershovel Books called Farewell Photography.

What I have been told is that it is a reprint that used a copy of the original as source material since none of the original prints or negatives still exist (the “real” Bye Bye Photography, as throwing out negatives is the antithesis of photography in the first place). It is larger in trim size than the original and I will venture to guess that the paper and in turn, the printing, is much different. I think the original was printed in gravure on a matte paper. This printing is on thick glossy magazine stock. The original included a text which was a conversation between Moriyama and Takuma Nakahira which is absent in this edition. In essence, with the change of title and appearance, this represents an interpretation of the original.

In these books, Moriyama is casting aside all conventions of photography and in turn, I believe, attempting to turn the viewer off to photography as well. Rarely in this book can the viewer tell what it is that we (or the photographer) are looking at. We are “shown” images in a barrage fashion and then we ask what is their relevance and association to one another. Confusion is inevitable if trying to read the book using logical approach. This book acts as a collection of images or memories that the mind would usually discard to make room for images “worth” remembering. These are non-moments and non-subjects described in a non-fashion. Moriyama seems to be attempting to erase all reference to specifics and thus cast out the baggage of direct meaning that may come with clear description.

In addition, the surface of these images is bombarded with scratches, light leaks and dust. There is constant reference, in these imperfections, to the physicality of photographic materials. Moriyama is repulsing the viewer in everyway possible to photography (possibly only a book of blank pages would accomplish a similiar dismissal of photography) while still using the materials. This reprint may achieve that better than the original.

This second generation, copy of a copy, probably obscures more detail and diminishes further the short tonal range of the original. Not to mention that the gravure of the original would seduce the reader in ways that this edition’s printing won’t. The surface of these pages is so glossy that room light reflected off its surface adds another barrier to the images. I won’t even mention the gutter of the book.

Of the original he declared, “I wanted to go to the end of photography.” It is curious that he went to the “end” and then in his later work returned to a safer place.

Perhaps this wasn’t the end he wished to find.