The influence of the prominent photographers Nobuyoshi Araki and Daido Moriyama has been so extensive it has even been suggested that the titles of an “Araki school” and a “Moriyama school” should be incorporated into the vernacular of contemporary photography. And yet, whilst comments regarding their impact on photography are a frequent occurrence in any article or description relating to the artists, the specific photographers who have been inspired by Araki and Moriyama are seldom referenced. The vast-reaching power of their influence, which has touched photographers across the world, makes it difficult to shortlist advocates of their work. This insight confronts this difficulty by profiling the key exponents of Araki and Moriyama and the ways in which these masters have galvanized their practices.
A photography duo who recently showed at MoMA (2012), the collaborative duo Birdhead is comprised of the artists Ji Weiyu and Song Tao. In a similar vein to Moriyama, their work focuses on capturing social situations and the contemporary culture of the metropolis. Yet it is with Araki that they claim their direct influence. They were particularly stimulated by his book Hardcover from 2001: taking inspiration from Araki’s own raw depiction of urban life in a photographic series, Birdhead documented their own version in the 2006 photobook Xin Cun (which literally translates as “new estate”). This cast a critical eye on the numerous housing developments that were being created around the city, as well as the demolishment of many of these to make space for Shanghai’s 2010 World Expo.
2. MOTOYUKI DAIFU
Photographs by the young Motoyuki Daifu are an interesting reference to the work of Nobuyoshi Araki. American Photo Magazine asserts that Daifu’s photographs help us further understand Araki himself. Daifu uses snapshots to record daily life, with his most prominent work being his 2013 Project Family. This work depicts the family home of Daifu amongst all the overcrowding and mess — in what has been aptly described as a visual chaos. Daifu’s images seem to contrast heavily with traditional Japanese values, but this is a personal record of his country — as he puts it: “this is my lovable daily life, and a loveable Japan.”
3. DAISUKE YOKOTA
Daido Moriyama has had a significant impact on the haunting work of Daisuke Yokota. Yokota’s photographs explore the potential of the development process, challenging conventions and exploring imperfections — ideas which are strongly reminiscent of Moriyama’s innovative photography. Yokota’s acknowledgement of Moriyama’s influence goes further than mere inspiration; as the artist himself states,
“I believe photographers in my generation who grew up seeing [Moriyama’s] repetitive and changing works and listening to his words have learned optical experiences, which I would say is something more than just an ‘influence’.”
Yokota’s photography aims to serve as an impression of a moment, to “alter the sensation of time in a visual way.
4. HARUTO HOSHI
Depicting urban life and the dark underbelly of Japan’s cities, it is not difficult to imagine the impact Moriyama’s photography has had on Haruto Hoshi. Yet there is something more caustic about Hoshi’s photography, perhaps related to his time spent in prison for a drug-related crime. It was here that Hoshi first considered photography as a career, and he has since continued his fascination with gritty metropolises from behind the lens of a camera. His photographs capture the life of the people he depicts, and put a contemporary spin on Moriyama’s own powerful works.
5. KOJI ONAKA
The internationally recognised Koji Onaka cites Moriyama’s Tales of Tono as the book that introduced him to the photographic medium. As he states, “it became something like a blueprint for my embracing of photography.” You can see these affinities with Onaka’s Twin Boat photobook, which reveals a black and white depiction of the loneliness of the city, and aims to free photography from its confinement in terms of both time and place — to free it from the constraint of the photographer’s original intent.
6. KAYO UME
The works of Kayo Ume have been described as absorbing the spirit of both Araki and Moriyama, rather than trying to imitate either photographer. Her work combines “shutter chance” with street scenes, where she relentlessly observes passers-by and surreptitiously photographs them when least expected. She does not stage the shots, but simply walks around and notices life. Though focusing on street scenes, her work injects humour and play into the darkness of Moriyama’s own photography, and Ume becomes, not a combination of Araki and Moriyama, but an artist who has been closely inspired by these two masters.
The photography of both Daido Moriyama and Nobuyoshi Araki has had a pervasive influence on a younger generation of artists. Their earlier works profoundly changed the tradition of Japanese photography, resulting in a lineage that spread across the world. This is only a short insight into some of the ways in which they have inspired a younger generation of artists. As they continue to produce new images and exhibit in world-renowned museums and galleries across the world, their impressive ouevres will no doubt continue to inspire photographers for many generations to come.