This approach reached its limit in his 1972 book Farewell Photography, in which he set out to “destroy photography”, giving his publisher a mass of damaged negatives and asking him to print them up anyway that suited him.
The book title actually summarised an entire, revolutionary photographic upheaval. Contrary to what his fellow American and European photographers were doing with their well-composed, beautifully toned and elegiac pictures, his blurry, grainy, out of focus, starkly contrasted pictures, often unbalanced and even casually framed, were a laugh in the face of what was then traditionally considered a good photograph. ‘Clarity isn’t what photography is about,’ Moriyama objected.
“At that time, I was frustrated with everything, including photography – particularly my own. There was a sense of irritation generally in the air, so I just thought ‘let’s completely deconstruct photography.”
“The book was incomprehensible to everyone, which was what I intended. But I found that having said farewell to photography, I had nothing to do. So after about a year I started working again but in a completely different way. I started photographing things that are in the DNA of Japan: cherry blossoms and the most beautiful views of Japan as you’d see them in postcards – only I made these images really dark.”
For Moriyama, the process of photographing seems to be less about getting the perfect shot or mastering the camera, than about the act of wandering itself.
Moriyama received the Infinity Award for Lifetime Achievement from the International Centre of Photography in New York.
His controversial book Farewell Photography was published by the Japanese publisher Shain Hyoron-sha, in March 1972, forty-four years ago.