A dog’s eye view

Again, from my undergraduate years – An essay was set for students to compare and contrast the work of two photographers of our choice. This is not an easy task when every photographer’s reasons for doing what they do is unique. At that time, I was discovering many photographers and had begun to explore the work of Anders Petersen and Daido Moriyama.   Drawn to the idea of wandering the streets, using the camera to find stories and reveal the complexities of human life, I selected them to write about for this assignment. I was (still am) intrigued by them both.

Extracts from this piece are below:


A dog’s eye view

An essay comparing and contrasting the work of Daido Moriyama and Anders Petersen.

Moriyama often portrays people as part of the blur of the city, losing them among buildings, escalators and grey streets. His images give these people anonymity and insignificance as individuals, and yet at the same time their presence alongside the ordinariness of the city streets gives them an importance that equals everything else around them. In contrast, Andersen takes a rather different approach, allowing time to become acquainted with people before photographing them. Some of his work may appear equally rapid in style, but Andersen believes there is an immorality in capturing someone without their knowledge and his approach seems to attach more of a value towards the individual than that of Moriyama. “It’s contact with people I am after. I want to touch them, feel them, hear them … ” (Petersen, 2004, p22).

This awareness and humbleness towards other people earns Petersen respect and trust from those he works with, and as a result of using openness and honesty, they allow him to photograph them in all kinds of personal situations. “For me the camera is like an entrance to the private life of other people …” (Petersen, 2011, photobookclub.org). Moriyama on the other hand seems to have a more self centred approach in that he aims to show aspects of his own life purely from his point of view; “… the story is mine … Daido telling you about the road he is following.” (Moriyama, 2010, p13).

Both Moriyama and Petersen favour black and white photography. As they were born in 1938 and 1944 respectively, they will have grown up with black and white film as the only means of photography, and so this has most likely impacted on the work they do today. Petersen claims black and white photography allows people to put their own colours into place, and so he feels there is more opportunity in a black and white photograph to open it up to the imagination and the interpretation of the viewer (Balcus, 2012, fkmagazine.lv). Moriyama has recently exhibited colour work though this is untypical of his style. His book Color (2012) is in a similar vein to his earlier work in that it shows the hustle and bustle of Japanese city life, but only now the images are rich with saturated hues. This highlights a further difference in the work of the two photographers in that Moriyama’s work is more fluid and changeable over time than that of Petersen, who seems to maintain a static consistency in his technique by comparison.

When comparing Moriyama and Petersen it is interesting to note that they have both worked with magazines early on in their careers, and both have been involved with controversy on a public scale. In 1968, Moriyama became involved with the magazine entitled ‘Provoke’ in which traditional artistic approaches were rejected, going against historical ideas of creating art with meaning. (Moriyama, 2010, p13). Around the same time Petersen was photographing portraits of people for the “[…] politically radical magazine, Pockettidningen R” (Olofsson, 2004, p241), indicating that both photographers as young men had ideas that went against those of mainstream society. Japan in particular was changing and experiencing new western influences which would no doubt have contributed to a more liberal approach to artisitic expression. Moriyama’s work will have been influenced by the changes in Japan at that time, reacting to a “… breakdown of traditional values in a rigid, controlling society …” (Michael Hoppen Gallery, 2012).
Petersen’s background in journalism led to a curiosity and a desire to experience unseen places, for example prisons and institutions. […] His move from Sweden to Germany came about as a search for something meaningful to him, and his arrival in Germany at a time of “social upheaval” (Olofsson, 2004, p241) led to the Café Lehmitz project in which he photographed people in states of vulnerability resulting in what has been described as a “painful document” (Olofsson, 2004, p241). This geographical dualism is one aspect that distinguishes the work of Petersen from that of Moriyama whose work is very much embedded in his home culture of Japan.

… both Petersen and Moriyama compare themselves to dogs in their approach to their work. Petersen aims to achieve the most naturalistic and “animalistic” photographs that he can, and to do this he goes so far as to refer to himself as being a dog “This is a dream I have. To be as a dog, almost. And I go for it. I don’t bother. I go for it.” (Petersen, 2011, photobookclub.org). Moriyama is known as the ‘stray dog of Tokyo’ as he wanders the backstreets looking for shots and also refers to himself as becoming a dog. “ … I had become a stray dog through and through, and could no longer forget the pleasure of being without a collar”. (Moriyama, 2010, p435). One of Moriyama’s most famous images is one of a stray dog, and Petersen also captured a similar image. This basic behaviour of following something, getting what you need to continue the basics of living, and doing what you want to do, seem to be the main driver that links the work of Moriyama and Petersen together.




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Moriyama, D. (2010) The world through my eyes, Milan:Skira

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Anders Petersen Biography Available at: http://www.anderspetersen.se/biography.html (Accessed 12th November 2012)

Rhodes, H. (ed) ‘showcase’, Image, Oct/Nov/Dec 12, issue 421, AOP, p47