#729. Bend it like Daido

By pascaljappy | How-To

May 29

Are, bure, boke. In English: rough, blurred, out of focus. 3 words to describe the style and philosophy of the Japanese Provoke movement of 50 years ago.




The name’s Moriyama, Daido Moriyama. And his use of stark B&W (and, more recently, colour) to visually communicate the raging energy of Tokyo has always been a signature like few other photographer can match. Other than his joigning the Provoke group in 1968, that signature is also one of the very few things I know about him. Daido Moriyama isn’t an artist I want to study, but an artist I want to be inspired by.



After the typical month of spring rainfall my part of Provence (called Green Provence for a reason) gets every May, the weather is now undergoing that sudden switch to scorcher mode that will last until November, when Autumn storms hit with a vengeance. In between, very little rain. Some years, none at all.

This morning, the unexpected sunrise filled me with energy and I picked up my camera for the first time in weeks (I mean in a creative, non touristy way) then headed out to capture that energy and welcome burst of light.

With steam rising from the ground everywhere, droplets on every blade of grass and a yellow sun in a blue sky, the reasonable thing to do would probably have been to grab a tripod and filters for glorious landscape shots. The fun thing to do was to bend it like Daido. Bend the tonal scale till the files scream their indignation and the flowers disappear in pools of violent light.



My blissful ignorance of any historical facts vis-a-vis Moriyama San allows me to interpret the Master’s intentions as I will rather than follow the boring rules of academic truth. To me, Daido Moriyama uses high contrast to bring order to a complex scene while maintaining the raw energy of the chaos behind it. It takes thorough knowledge of the Dark Side of the Force to achieve this.

Daido Moriyama is Mace Windu.

High contrast highlights the movements and broad sweeps and eliminates the details. Instead of a wide open fast lens, Moriyama erases the distractions by burning them with light. How much more elegant is that? Whether details remain present or not, the focus is drawn to the main components of the shot, essence and clarity emerge as contrast rises.



On this sunny morning, I grabbed my camera with Moriyama’s pictures in mind. And tried to find inspiration in his work to highlight the shapes and vibe of spring in Provence at this most energetic of times when the weather abandons a stable pattern to move into another, in total opposition.


And, although I don’t approve, who’s to argue with the Master ? Certainly not me, humble padawan in his remote sleepy French village. So, if I must, to honour Daido’s more recent vision, here is one in colour. The things we do for those we love …

(for the technically inclined, all pics with the C-Sonnar 1.5/50 ZM, mostly at f/1.5 or f/2)



What say you? Did I bend it proper?


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  • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    OMG – I’m quite the wrong person to ask – I was told by the managing partner of a firm I worked for in the early 1980s that I wasn’t to do any more work on the [BLANK] account – I wasn’t “sufficiently bent”. I took that as a compliment and left shortly afterwards, to set up my own firm. And shortly after that, BLANK was jailed for fraud.
    I do envy you the chance to capture the rising mist. We get that every once in a decade or more – I moved here from Darwin (where I was sheltering from the people in my home city who had a devout belief in their superiority over the “common people”) about 50 years ago, and I think I can remember fog or mist about 3 times – at night! – and NEVER during daylight hours. Unless I somehow managed to sleep through it, anyway.

    • pascaljappy says:

      Wow, that’s quite the horror story. You did well to leave when you did.

      Darwin … fond, very fond, memories. Being a tourist ads a very romantic touch to everything, doesn’t it? I wonder what the city is like today.

      You’d probably find more mist in the forests in the South but even those are populated with trees that don’t drink much water and their leaves probably don’t release that much vapor. I remember the vineyards in Margaret River draped under some sort of protecting veil and with water vaporised to keep the grape cool (not worth the effort if you ask me, but don’t tell anyone or my future Visas will be refused).

      • jean pierre {pete} guaron says:

        I was actually living in Darwin – wonderful place, wonderful people. Some years after I moved here, the Northern Territory government invited me to go back there and advise them on my area of law. I had an incredible time there, on that trip. I’ve generally held the view that the past is one place you can’t go back to, but this was the exact opposite.

        Example – one lady recognised me after all the intervening years, rushed up to me, hugged me so hard I could scarcely breathe, and cried all over me, she was so overcome with joy at seeing me again after all that time. I don’t normally get that sort of reaction from anyone I haven’t seen for 10 years. 🙂 (She & I originally met when I was living there, and I did some work for her son).

        Some of the things I saw in Darwin were a photographer’s dream come true. Bit wet, sometimes, for digi cams, but the images you could capture there are unbelievable. Phosphorescent creatures in the sea, crossing the harbour in an old pearling lugger – one of the two best sunsets I’ve ever seen – sheet lightning & fireballs – rain falling so heavily it was almost solid – a strange freshwater creature that was half fish, half animal, and had both fins & a tail, as well as legs, looking like a leftover from the age of the dinosaurs. On and on . . .

        • pascaljappy says:

          Well my stay was only a few weeks long and that is full of fantastic memories (magroves, forests, caves, crocs, lakes, snakes, spiders, monitors, eagles, cranes, gorges, termites …) so I can only imagine what years of living there must be like. What freshwater creature was that ????

          • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

            No idea WTF it was – looked like an escapee from an archeology book.

            Roper Bar was an out of this world experience – so was the geothermal spa at Mataranka on “the Track” – one or two other episodes I’m not putting on DS – the “flight of the brolgas”, birds like you’ve never seen B4 or since! – the kangaroo that I think I mentioned some time back, that used to hop over the road & around the back of the units where I lived, to visit me on a Sunday, and get a sugar lump as a treat (had any pet kangaroos in your backyard lately? 🙂 )

            • pascaljappy says:

              We saw brolgas in a nuptial dance at Yellow River billabong and it is a memory I treasure. Not many roos in mybackyard, no 😉 Although a local vet has managed bring back and breed about 10 wallabies just down the lane. Not sure how they survive our winters but they do and have become quite the local attraction. Never been to Roper Bar. Isn’t that inside Arnhemland (permit required) ? I’d so like to go back to that area …

          • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

            Roper Bar is in the southwest corner of the Gulf of Carpentaria – when we went, accessible by 4WD and sensibly only in convoy, in case the only vehicle you took broke down. Bearing in mind that was way before cellphones – smart dumb or otherwise – so a breakdown in the outback would have been tempting fate, without taking other precautions. It seems to be on or just inside the boundary of Arnhemland. The aboriginal owners aren’t like the original white settlers, thought – they won’t shoot you on sight!

            And yes – to get into Arnhemland, you need a permit – which isn’t much harder than buying a bus ticket.

  • Philberphoto says:

    You didn’t bend it, you boggled it! Irrevocably, irreparably boggled it! You boggler! My mind is now forever boggled! Some of your pics are so wonderful, there should be a law forbidding you to spend time at anything else!
    What a shame you didn’t make these pics with better gear, though. They would have been, great though they are, unspeakably better. Go get yourself a Hassy, man!

  • Kristian Wannebo says:

    (I doubt if “proper” is a proper adjective for properly commenting photos – whether bent or not…)

    Very nice photos!
    ( …and that blue flower background!)
    … and no need to feel bent, I didn’t feel like they pointed me to D.M.

    And thanks for alerting me to Daido Moriyama!
    I enjoyed browsing his website!
    ( And also his tendency to intentionally skew the horizon with good effect.)
    – – –

    Mists …
    I long for for them.
    A good way to cover too detailed backgrounds when photographing trees.

    ( Once when I lived in Heidelberg, an autumn fog stayed longer than a week, you could hardly see the roofs of four story houses … I soon began to feel creepy, brr…)

    • pascaljappy says:

      You make a proper point. Daido is the man. There’s a lot going on in his mind. A complexity that he somehow channels into those arresting photographs. I don’t like all of them, far from it, but what impact and inspiration …

      • Kristian Wannebo says:

        you say it better than I could.
        I felt a bit overwhelmed by quite a few of his photos, and haven’t digested them yet.

        • pascaljappy says:

          Yes, some are very harsh … almost cruel. Not something I’d hang in my bedroom 😉 But they leave traces and memories that shoot up when you visualise certain scenes.

          • Kristian Wannebo says:

            Yes, they can.

          • Kristian Wannebo says:

            As to untraditional photography:
            I once saw a large photo book about forests (I don’t remember the name) where all photos were totally out of focus.
            Just shapes and colours, but *very* treeish!

      • Kristian Wannebo says:

        Also his skill at technically distorting photos in order to emphasize them, no traditional PP-ing there.

        • Kristian Wannebo says:

          Sorry, clicked the wrong reply button,
          should have been before the other reply on PP-ing.

  • Dallas says:

    Pascal thank you for introducing me to the world of Daido something I will explore further.

  • NMc says:

    Your lens may have too much anti-glare coating. 😉
    If I would make one comment it is that the less superficially your photos seemed to follow the style of Daido, the better the atmosphere and light the seemed to be captured, and the more Moriyamaesque the photos felt. It is probably the nature of the light you had as much as the lens or digital capture, either way it is a good example of being inspired rather than an imitation of a style.
    Great work, thanks Noel

    • pascaljappy says:

      Noel I suspect you’re right. The C-Sonnar is a little too clean. My beloved 35/1.4 ZM is even “worse”. Look at this. And yes, I think the light helped tremendously as it provided some of that “unsharpness” that the lens couldn’t properly render.

      Imitation vs inspiration … hmmm … now that would be an interesting article. Care to write it? 😉 I think basically, when I see some sorts of light, it reminds me of a specific photographer, because light is what I’m most receptive to. Another photographer would be more interested in shape, or subject matter. That’s when inspiration is at play. But to imitate Moriyama, I would probably need to go on a Moriyama workshop and imitate his shooting process on the same subjects in the same light with the same gear. To me that would feel hollow as we probably don’t have the same mental background.I’d love to meet him though 😉

      Thanks for the kind words,

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