Daido Moriyama: Sunflower

JTF (just the facts): Published in 2011 by Match and Company (here). Hardcover, 88 pages, with 64 black and white images. The photographs included were taken between 1965 and 2009. There are no essays or texts. (Spread shots below.)

Comments/Context: Daido Moriyama’s photographs of flowers aren’t like most floral pictures. They aren’t intricate botanical specimens, up-close geometries, or bright blossoms captured at the peak of their freshness and beauty. Moriyama’s flowers are much darker and edgier, turning floral innocence into something alternately sultry, menacing, decaying or decidedly urban. This book brings together a broad sample of Moriyama’s flowers, taken over four prolific decades, offering a subject matter-based view into his singular aesthetic.

This edit applies perhaps the loosest possible definition of “floral” to the photographs that have been included here. While there are a handful of single images of sunflowers, roses, hydrangeas, tulips, and the like, as well as some wider shots of fields and cherry trees, for the most part, Moriyama has avoided straight-on floral portraits. Instead, his flowers are found in the flow of daily life, in bursting bouquets wrapped in plastic and tin foil, reflected in shop windows, and discarded in dingy gutters and alleys. They are often seen in flash lit glare, looming out of the surrounding darkness with out of place, tactile seductiveness.

Moriyama’s restless eye for the contrast between flowers and their surroundings extends in all directions, from printed floral clothing and tawdry motel furnishings to funeral wreaths and elaborate tattoos. Patterned blouses and skirts, swimsuits and shoulder bags all add a pop of flower power to an otherwise shadowy world, while bedspreads, curtains, and worn carpet with floral prints add a touch of faded energy to empty rooms. Hints of floral motifs show up in even more subtle and unexpected places in Moriyama’s world, in lace lingerie and underwear and on ironwork benches and shop awnings. Even fireworks, dancefloor confetti, and nighttime snowflakes become vaguely floral when seen from the right angle.

The best of Moriyama’s flowers have a lush eroticism that feeds on his dark palette; whether literal or figurative, they have a lurking sense of knowing danger or spent beauty. Even the cheapest and ugliest of his flowers have some seedy come hither attraction, trading pure elegance for something a little grittier.

Collector’s POV: Daido Moriyama has been a prolific book maker, and the specialized secondary markets and photobook auctions are routinely stocked with vintage rarities for deep pocketed collectors. Morimaya’s photographs have also become more widely available at auction in recent years, with print prices generally ranging from $2000 and $40000.

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