By Ian Varkevisser | Art & Creativity

Dec 13
Born in Ikeda, Osaka in 1938 Hiromichi Moriyama lived his early years in troubled and unsettled times. His family moved frequently owing to his father's work. Whenever he moved he wandered the streets exploring his surroundings. He grew up in the darkness of post war Japan. Known most famously for his image Stray Dog. He later changed his name to Diado Moriyama.

These early experiences and his famous image were to end up shaping his style as he wanders around the street of cities of Japan like a stray dog poking his nose in everywhere and exploring back streets and alleys. He revels in being likened to a stray dog, honoured even.

He does not consider photography and art but shoots anything and everything democratically. The camera is merely a reproduction device for him as he often take photos of his own images. It is not a creative device but an imitative device. 

Moriyama flies in the face of convention of his time with his concept of "ARE BURE BOKEH" ( Grainy, Blurry, Out Of Focus ) in which he provokes discussion around the very nature of photography and attempts to redefine it.

He becomes a founder member of the short lived Provoke movement whose stated aims are to have no desire to produce "Good Work" as interpreted by the values of the past.

Asked to define photography he will say. "Photographs are pieces of the everlasting world – daily life – and fossils of light and time. They are also fragments of presentiment, inspiration, record, and memory about human beings and their history, as well as another language and world that becomes visible and intelligible through objectifying reality by means of cameras. Photography is the act of fixing time, not of expressing the world."

The American influence in post war Japan is prominent and he draws inspiration from Klein and Warhol during the turbulent rebellious times of political upheaval of the 60s in Japan.

Moriyama’s aesthetic and his method of taking quick snapshots without looking through the viewfinder are two distinctive features of his work. His photographs experiment with light, shade, and abstraction while allowing for serendipity and accident. 

He views the world as an erotic space and is drawn to all sort of things. Cities are bodies of peoples desires to be sliced in time, as he searches for his own desires within them. 

Diado turns his back on the structured realism of traditional photography in favour of a more personal subjective approach. Instead of capturing what is seen his images hint at what he feels. Importantly he likes taking snapshots in the movement of both himself and the outside world. ( Blurry , Out of Focus ).

He takes joy in using a low quality point and shoot for its unobtrusiveness and low  ( if not zero ) shutter noise. 

Separated by vastly different cultures it is often difficult to relate to a foreign philosophy, nevertheless I feel a sense of affinity with his aesthetic at times.     

Here we attempt to create a high contrast, grainy monochrome E-Film for the Canon G7X ii point and shoot ( added grain and clarity in Lightroom (ugh), pity its not a fuji with built in grain and clarity options ) , and see if we can do justice to the "ARE BURE BOKEH" stray dog.

Why black and white and not colour - because it has stronger elements of abstraction or symbolism he says.

For another perspective on this concept I refer you to post #729 Bend it like Daido , penned by our fearless leader.

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  • John Wilson says:

    Ian – Either there’s something strange in the beer you’ve been drinking or you have an Excellent drug dealer. These are FABULOUS!!! Move to Vancouver and you would be the immediate Doyen of the Contemporary Photography crowd … opening nights, champagne ….

    Flat out one of the best (if not the best) collection of images I’ve seen here.


    PS – I’m also a big fan of DM. He would be proud.

  • John Wilson says:

    And you’ve just given me a whole new idea.

  • Peter Oosthuizen says:

    Definitely different and thought provoking – which, I suppose, is the point! What is THAT quickly morphs to What IS that? Well done and thanks for a different perspective.

    • Ian Varkevisser says:

      merely the act of fixing time not of expressing the world. but then again i just shoot what i see in front of me it is for others to find meaning in my work, Daido would probably have ascribed to that too i guess.

  • Nancee Rostad says:

    I’ve always said that sharp focus is overrated and you’ve proven my point beautifully, Ian! You’ve paid an exceptional homage to Diado Moriyama, while giving the images your own personal twist. Kudos!

    • Ian Varkevisser says:

      in the words of that most notorious photographer HCB “nothing worse that a sharp image of a fuzzy concept”< if i got that quote right

  • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    If everyone always did the same thing, we’d all die of boredom.

    A very long time ago, when I was still young, I tried to steer my path forward by learning from other people – other photographers. I even managed to find a booke on “composition” in photography, setting out all the “rules”. And I very soon found I was doing my own thing and completely ignoring what you are “supposed” to do, and upsetting everyone who looked at my work.

    I got so p***ed off with their unasked for “opinions” that after they nearly crucified me over a photo I took in about 1967, I simply stopped letting other people look at my photos, at all. I’ve relented in recent years, but that took me half a century!

    So I can gaze at these images, wondering what he must have gone through, before prejudice was replaced by popularity – approbation by approval – acrimony by acceptance. Wondering what drove Diado. To understand him better, I’m pretty sure you’d need a great deal of information about him. I’e had that opportunity with a number of artists, sculptors, architects, landscape gardeners, over the years – and I believe it’s simply self-delusional to imagine you can understand or appreciate their works until you put the time into finding what they were striving to do. Just seeing one or two items on display in a gallery doesn’t achieve that for the viewer.

    • Jon Maxim says:

      Hi Jean Pierre, Like you, I decided long ago not to show my images to anyone. I recently joined a photo club just to please one of my friends. What an eye opening! They are all obsessed with photo competitions. They submit their work to “judges” who have their preconceived ideas of what makes a good photo and then get upset that the judges don’t “understand” them.

      They are also upset that I do not enter competitions. I tell them I do not need to be told how bad they are. I already know. The then say the are disappointed because they are unable to see my work. So I have let them see some. They seem to like it and suggest that I should enter it into competition, because it would “do well”.

      But every so often someone says, “That’s a really brilliant shot, but the judges won’t score it high.”

      I then reply, “Of course they won’t. Now you know why I don’t value competitions. The one thing that the judges cannot know is – what was the artist’s intent?”

      They then stare at me blankly.

      • Ian Varkevisser says:

        Pete and Jon,

        Stand by your work guys , engage in discussion if asked for your view point , let unwanted ignorant opinions of your work run off your back like a ducks water ( lol ) .

        Most importantly if you wish to know how not to approach photography join a photographic society for 6 months , IMHO , but leave before the mind becomes poisoned in the echo chambers of its halls.

        Be wary of competitions they are largely money making schemes for the organisers, as are photographic society salons,

        If only judges would allow and engage in open discussion during meetings societies might become much better places.

      • pascaljappy says:

        Hi Jon, like Ian, I regret that many competitions are business oriented, and most will favour the sort of photographer that will keep eyeballs coming. So the formulaic and instawhammable often do well in those. Competitions can be great if you know the jury and their track record. If you’re going to get real feedback, then jump in. Sadly, the same goes with many workshops. Some are wonderful experiences, others are merely paid opportunities for the “master” to go on location and build their portfolio with a bunch of fans who will receive more credit if they imitate the master well.

        So, not ideal. But it’ still important to mix with people and share good times and good feedback. A good buddy is a great start. There’s nothing competitive about that, and you can help each other out, and build a small group from there ?


        • Jon Maxim says:

          Hi Pascal and Ian,

          The sad thing is that the competitions I am referring to are not financially motivated. I belong to one of the many “camera clubs” in Ontario, Canada. The clubs also belong to a federation of clubs in Ontario. It is this federation which has created a model that the judges should follow when judging the competitors. Their argument is that participating in competitions with no prizes, just scores (like dance competitions), will enable the members to improve their photographic skills.

          To be fair, to new photographers, it does help improve their technical skills and to a lesser degree their composition skills. At least, it gets them to think about composition.

          The problem is that there is very little feedback given by the judges as to what led to the score that the member scored. Also, since the judges do not know what the creator intended to convey, they cannot give meaningful feedback – just whether they liked it or not (just think of how Diado Moriyama would score in such competitions). Eventually the members get discouraged unless they score high.

          This is one of the things I like so much about this article, Ian. You gave us the exact motivation behind these images. It allowed us to view them through the right lens.

          As for “if you wish to know how not to approach photography join a photographic society for 6 months” – I know exactly what you mean – if you drink the KoolAid. I joined the club with trepidation only to get more time with a friend, when we had trouble finding times to get together. As it turns out, I also met some like minded individuals with whom I enjoy talking about photography over coffee or beers. It gets better. We have discovered that over half the members don’t like competitions, even if they participate in them. So we have started influencing the club to introduce more meaningful content and less focus on competition. This has led to more social interaction and the true sharing of photographic ideas and opinions – and lots of fun arguments! 🙂

          • John Wilson says:

            Jon – I know all too well of whence you speak. I’ve been a member of Burnaby Photographic Society in Vancouver for over 20yrs – a member of CAPA. About ten years ago we had an extended debate about the whole notion of “scoring” and decided to abandon it completely for critique, debate, discussion and just sharing images. The results have been dramatic; images shown went from CAPA formulaic to a cornucopia of different styles, ideas and techniques with a lot more discussion and interchange … and a lot more fun than sitting in the dark waiting for “the number”.

            I also host a monthly Zoom group called Photo Friday. We meet the last Friday of the month to discuss, debate and critique each others work, talk about projects, get help and advise and share ideas. It’s a diverse group including members in the US and Vancouver Island. We’ve been at it now for about 8 years with no sign of stopping. Sounds like your impromptu group’s heading in the same direction.

            • Ian Varkevisser says:

              I have heard of your famous VAG or Vancouver Art Gallery is it is often referred to in more polite circles. always wanted to show there – sounds quite sexy 🙂 lol.

              On a more serious note CAPA ( or PSSA in this country ) churn out clones judges on a regular basis. Even now 10 years after leaving a society I can go back to their meetings and when they critique images I can close my eyes not look at them , and almost verbatim give the same critique as the judge on the night.

              Mystic powers or dejavu it frightens me 🙂

      • PaulB says:


        I’ve been a member of a similar club. It was fun at first but became a drag on creativity and enjoyment by rigid application of the rules. I refer to this as Cookie Cutter Photography.

        You are wise to limit your participation.

  • Des McSweeney says:

    I do love what he did and loved the current exhibition (or just past) at the Photographer’s gallery. Equally your edit is fantastic too. Isn’t much of what is represented here intentional blur as opposed to bokeh. I am ignorant of these matters but just ask the question… e.g. toilet roll, legs, girls sitting

  • Jon Maxim says:

    Hi Ian, I really like how you have taken his concept and made it your own – a sort of Western Moriyama. Lots of the feeling of alienation.

    As for your comment on gear, I think you are right. A Fuji would approach his grainy look even more. You know, you can pick up a really inexpensive, used, beat up, small Fuji XE really cheaply and, looking at most of the angles of view in you images, achieve that with an “obsolete”, cheap, used, inconspicuous, first version Fuji XF27mm.

    The combination would also serve the purpose of achieving his indifference for the state of his camera! 🙂

    Jon Maxim

    • Ian Varkevisser says:

      Disclaimer : I do already own a Fuji which has in built grain. Was just having a facetious dig ( again ) at lesser manufacturers products 🙂 . The choice for this exercise was to use a pocketable point and shoot with a short 4X zoom similar to the sort Daido uses and to shoot jpeg in camera as close a possible in the style of. No harm in lamenting its lack of grain ability though.

  • Steve says:

    Ian, what an absolutely terrific set of images, impossible to pick a favourite. Atmospheric, engaging and other worldly. Let’s have more.

  • Kristian Wannebo says:

    THANKS for sharing these!
    A great collection and very inspiring!
    (I’d like many of them on my walls.)

    The lack of sharpness emphasises the compositions, doesn’t it!

  • PaulB says:


    I am experimenting with intentional defocus. But you are on a totally different level. Thanks for sharing these images.


    • Ian Varkevisser says:

      don’t give up , its much like normal photography though on 1 in 100 are keepers.

      it is however oft said if you want to know whether you have a good composition squint your eyes ( intentional defocus ) and evaluate the composition – seem to recall coming across that suggestion somewhere. if so it helps improve normal photography compositional skills

      • PaulB says:


        That may have worked when I was younger. Today all I need to do is take off my glasses. 🙂

        Towards the end of my membership in the club, I bought a Linhof 4×5 from another member. I quickly found that composing on the ground glass helped my composition greatly. There is nothing like viewing the scene in front of you upside down and backwards to abstract what you think is there. Which makes seeing what is there a lot more objective. This helped a lot with my efforts using smaller cameras.

        Unfortunately, this does not work with digital cameras. At least I haven’t found the setting to turn the display image upside down and backwards. The camera always turns the scene right side up.


  • Ian Varkevisser says:

    Just a reminder

    If you have fallen ill from the rigid application of conventional ‘rules’ download a cure from here


    in the form of the ‘anti manual of street photography’

    • PaulB says:


      Thank you for the link. I will delve into it further.

      As an aspiring Street Photographer I like looking at the work of others for inspiration. I find the necessity for speed in action eliminates too much thinking about rules or what looks good. Either your subconscious puts it together or it doesn’t.

      Also, using vintage lenses wide open can force you to think differently about your image than the rules dictate. We need to follow the lens instead of the rules.


  • Peter Backhouse says:

    Enjoyed the intro and the photos – thanks.

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