If you or I decided to go to New York City to create a book of photographs, the result would most likely be banal in terms of both photos and design. In contrast, this book by Daido Moriyama shows what a great artist can do with photography. Furthermore, the book design is remarkable.
About 23x15x5 cm and 1.4 kg, '71-NY (not "1971/NY" as Amazon would have it) arrives in a corrugated brown cardboard slipcase. A black dust jacket has one small elliptical hole revealing blue underneath and one small circular hole revealing white underneath. The soft cover of the book has horizontal blue and white stripes. It's over 400 pages in length (not "150" as Amazon would have it).
All the text in Japanese is translated into English and vice versa; the English versions are printed in landscape orientation in a typewriter-like font. The first three pages contain a letter from Moriyama to publisher and co-designer Andrew Roth. Eighteen pages toward the end contain an excerpt from "Another Country" by James Baldwin, an interview with Moriyama, and an essay by Neville Wakefield.
Almost all the black-and-white photos shot in 1971 bleed to the edges of the pages. Most occupy entire two-page spreads, but some are only one page in size, and a few take up 1/2 or 1/3 of a page. All the photos are grainy, and many are blurry and/or not level.
Flipping through the book is like taking a wild ride through the big city. We see buildings, people on the street, indoor self-portraits, television screen shots, etc. I especially like the sequences of different shots of the same subject. For example, there are four two-page spreads taken from the same vantage point showing the twin towers of the World Trade Center (still not yet fully occupied as of 1971) in the background. Two half-page images and a two-page spread explore the same scene full of movie marquees with their bright lights. Based on markings on the 14 sample pages of contact prints at the end, Moriyama chose carefully among his many negatives.
In the U.S., Moriyama is known through books that take his photos out of context, such as "Black Sun: the Eyes of Four: Roots and Innovation in Japanese Photography" by Holborn (1986), "Daido Moriyama: Stray Dog" by Phillips (1999), and "Daido Moriyama" by Nishii (2001, Phaidon 55 series). Since most of his other great books such as "Bye, Bye, Photography, Dear" (Shashin Yo Sayonara) and "Japan: A Photo Theater" (Nippon Gejiko Shashincho) are out of print and quite expensive on the used market, this book provides an affordable opportunity to own a complete work by Moriyama. Don't wait until the limited edition of 3000 copies is sold out - buy '71-NY today from Amazon.com!
BTW, as further evidence of its quality, this book is discussed in both "The Photobook: A History, Volume I" by Parr & Badger (2004) and "Open Book" of the Hasselblad Center and Arctic Paper (2004).
12 people found this helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?
This is one of the most extraordinary photography books in print, and certainly the most important book of Moriyama's available in the US. I cannot recommend it too highly. It's the result of Moriyama's trip to New York in 1971 and the photographs he took with his Olympus Pen W half frame camera (he shot over a hundred rolls). A document like this is the best way to experience Moriyama's photography because, as you'll see in this book, he doesn't so much shoot individual photographs as he does a series of photographs that together make up a work. This is an entirely different vision of photography from the dominant Euro-American approach to creating disparate images (think the decisive moment), and yet it's nothing like our usual sense of the photographic essay or series, either. Moriyama creates a new understanding of what's photographable, in my opinion. A book that's likely to become expensive and scarce quickly, so add it to your working library while you can.
10 people found this helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?