Moriyama’s early photographs appear exceptionally grainy and often lean towards abstraction with their blurring of figures. These early works include Moriyama’s most famous photograph, the iconic Stray Dog from 1971, which has continued to intrigue and unnerve viewers into the present day. Often called his unofficial self-portrait, Stray Dog has become a metaphor for the artist himself. Moriyama has never had a fixed location for his shooting; rather, he wanders the streets, lingering here and there as if searching for food. He once jokingly described his way of street shooting, "I'm shooting as if a dog is excreting in the street."
Also in 1971, Moriyama paid his first visit to New York. He obtained a great deal of inspiration from the work of photographer Bruce Davidson, as well as from the work of Andy Warhol. In 1972, Moriyama published Farewell Photography, a hallmark of his early style.
In the 1980s, the Light and Shadow series marked a new stage in Moriyama’s development. He continued to adopt his uniquely grainy, blurry and out-of-focus style of aesthetics, but the contrast in his photographs became more exaggerated. Experimenting with techniques in the dark room, he focused on sensing and responding to light. In the mid-80s and 90s, Moriyama’s style further developed, as he shifted to a style of taking snapshots, capturing everyday life as it was. Many images remained unclear and ambiguous, but this is exactly how his experience at street level impacted him.
In recent years, in his travels to international cities, Moriyama continues to document street scenes and cityscapes in a similar manner – seeking inspiration in everyday life. His interpretation of this “fleeting reality” of his surroundings shows a unique side of each city he visits. Wandering the streets, Moriyama captures not only moments in time, but also an emotional, characteristic of a city, each full of its own anxieties, desires, and charm.
“I love cities very much, especially big cities. In a bigger city,
there is a bigger variety of people, more stories and a higher mobility.
A city consists of the desire of the people and the society; it is a state of chaos.
I am very interested in shooting these feelings of ambiguous desires.
To me, every city is a piece of art in itself. I do not need to create art;
I just need to shoot what exactly the city is.
This is why I never get tired of shooting in the streets even after
doing it for so many years.”