Like many other photographers of his generation, Moriyama witnessed the dramatic changes that took place in Japan in the decades following World War II. In response, he sought to invent a new visual language to express the conflicting realities of a society caught between tradition and modernity. Following his studies in graphic design in Osaka, Daido Moriyama decided to take up photography and moved to Tokyo in 1961. There, he gravitated toward the work of the avant-garde photographers of the Vivo Agency, in particular thatof Shomei Tomatsu and Eikoh Hosoe, drawing from the former a fascination for the bizarre underworld of Japanese street life and from the latter a sense of the theatrical and the erotic.
It was also during this time that he discovered the work of two American photographers, William Klein and Robert Frank, developing an interest in the action-oriented approach to street photography that characterizes their work. These photographers would notably influence Moriyama’s photographic style, inspiring him to capture his subjects while walking through the streets, using a small hand-held camera as if it were an extension of his body.
These diverse influences can be seen in his early work—when he was starting out as a freelance photographer in 1964—as well as later in his contributions to Provoke, an avant-garde photographic magazine he joined in 1968. Out of focus, vertiginously tilted or invasively cropped, Moriyama’s images reflect the disjunctive nature of contemporary urban experience.