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Stray Dog

text by Robert Goethals, photography by Daido Moriyama

Daido Moriyama. Shanghai. JGS, Inc. Permanent Collection

21, 1959, Daido Moriyama books to Tokyo. Begins navigating the Emptiness of Shinjuku Ward, its hallucinative, syringe-strewn alleyways, chancing photographs through slits in bamboo blinds of poison berry-eyed gangsters, their wetdream girl vrooming the bar stool, her phantom passer-by, cigarette smoke, trigger shroud, the bronze light of reflected beer. The city has become a theatre for art, Daido Moriyama recounts. The facade provides the main backdrop for events to take place but backstreets is where the real details are, its where you can clearly see desire. I think its more of an honest reflection, a tighter relationship, of how people relate to the place they are in. Wherever. People warn me not to walk to certain areas but I was curious to venture on because, well, Im a photographer.

Daido Moriyama. Shanghai. JGS, Inc. Permanent Collection

Stray dog, predatory wanderer, Moriyama shoots from the hip, in crowds and solo. Shoots from windows of speeding cars, shoots what he wants to shoot, no censorship. Wily, he studies the streets of foreign cities, learning their secret passageways, how they curve, ways they ascend, descend. In Tokyos Shinjuku Ward, the stray dog knows the liquescent shadows into which to slip, the black alleys to escape the yakuza. Well the thugs and gangsters are scary, muses Moriyama. They come out at around 2:00 or 3:00 AM so I dont photograph them directly, but if I do, I snap quickly to capture a glimpse of what they are after and in hopes of avoiding confrontation.

Daido Moriyama

Stray dogs images are contrasty, grainy, and gritty. You catch vapors of William Klein, Shomei Tomatsu, Fukase Masahisas ravens for stone sure. Influential Japanese culturati will insist with beetle-browed inflexibility how Moriyamas ferocious anti-gorgeous gaze reveals the

tantalizing mix of Japanese wabi aloofness, (in the middle of a samsara shitstorm), with prized sabi worship of all things primitive, uncouth, and piss-poor. You might think life is simple enough until the harpoon of Moriyamas Analyzing Eye turns its mysteries so protean, dense, and unfathomable, our tiny, fragile brains throb.

Daido Moriyama. Shanghai. JGS, Inc. Permanent Collection

Faceless people populate Moriyamas cityscapes, some receding into luscious shadows, others so irresistible they later float in the dusk of your half-sleep. Moriyama slants and angles his point-and-shoot Ricoh randomly, shooting buildings, paper sacks, the texture of a pompadour, mud, all transformed from the mean side of paradise into Heavenly Reason. Unintimidated by drabness, stray dog flies past representational veracity, cornering you in indecipherable places, where form slides into disintegration and so too the limits of your frenzied perception.

In 1982, with characteristic cultural asymmetry, the Japanese artists gaze broke out into the Land of the Cold and Clear. My approach is very simplethere is no artistry, I just shoot freely. For me, photography is not about an attempt to create a two-dimensional work of art, but by taking photo after photo, I come closer to truth and reality at the very intersection of the fragmentary nature of the world and my own personal sense of time.

~ Robert Goethals, December 2010