A Spotlight on the Season's Top Photography Books

By LUC SANTENOV. 30, 2016

(source: nytimes.com)

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From Daido Moriyama's series ?Tokyo Color?. Credit: Daido Moriyama Photo Foundation

There is possibly no more omnivorous photographer alive than Daido Moriyama. His pictures have an identifiable look: black-and-white, grainy, off-center, tilted, high-contrast ? but within those bounds he has covered an encyclopedic range of subjects and approaches in the dozens of books he has published since the early 1970s. (Note that such a figure is not unusual for photographers in Japan, where books are often small, cheap and quickly produced ? conditions that favor grain and high contrast.) In his newest, DAIDO TOKYO (Fondation Cartier Pour l?Art Contemporain/Thames & Hudson, $40), he counters expectations: Half the pages are in color. His subject is Shinjuku, the neighborhood around Tokyo's major train station, historically not unlike Times Square: filled with bars and love hotels, rife with low-level crime and lurid advertising. It has been gentrified somewhat in recent decades, and also features verdant parks and sleek skyscrapers, but Moriyama nevertheless locates all his favorite textures: fishnet, chain-link, steel tubing, tangled cables, broken glass, torn posters, cracked PVC, dust.

Like all of Moriyama's books, this one invites rapid-fire cinematic immersion. The color photos are full-bleed and crammed together, sometimes four per spread. The second half of the book, called ?Dog and Mesh Tights,? is printed on black uncoated stock, the photos black-and-silver, the count here rising as high as eight pictures in a spread. Over all, the photos range from close-up to long shot, and they show people, animals, landscapes, the moon ? but primarily they concern the urban surface, in every kind of light and condition. You often don?t know whether it's day or night, whether an ostensible subject is three-dimensional or an image within a poster, whether it's merchandise or trash. You are invited to be a fly, landing on a tree branch, in an alleyway, on a store window, in a bathroom, on a dinner plate. One by one the pictures are often astounding, bravura displays of Moriyama's mastery of light and composition. In bulk they are dizzying, a high-speed chase, and seemingly tossed off like so many phone pictures. (read more)