Devouring photobooks #1 — TALES OF TONO by MORIYAMA DAIDO
Premise of “Devouring photobooks”
It took me almost a year to realise that I am sitting on a treasure trove of books.
At January 2020, I was employed by a local university. It took me 11 months to realise that it means I could borrow books, especially photobooks that are usually rare and expensive from the university library.
I have around a year to go before my contract is expired, therefore I plan to “devour” the photobooks that I am interested in before I have to leave this treasure trove.
I plan to write about what I think about these photobooks that I read. While I am, by no means the master in terms of photography history / literature, I hope readers would find my words insightful or at the very least, have an overview of these photobooks.
So, here is #1 of many photobooks to come (hopefully).
Title: Tales of Tono (遠野物語)
Photographer: Moriyama Daido
Published: © Tate 2012 (reprint)
Dimensions: 173mm X 115mm X 18mm
The concept behind the book
The concept of this series of photos was in search of his idea of “home town”, not so much about the geographical location of the place, but rather a place that exists only in Moriyama’s mind. As for why it has to be Tono, the photographer mentioned that he first encountered the Japanese folk tale “Tales of Tono”, he mentioned that he became “fascinated and obsessed by Tono” that it became embodiment of his “home town” dream.
There are 3 essays in the book illustrating the concept and motif of this project that is impossible to sum up in simple words.
“… it has been a place that evokes a mysterious world, strangely combining narration and lyricism, reality and fantasy.”
There are a few colour photographs as well.
What do I think about this book
The photos in this book are mostly grainy, high-contrast black and white photographs. The contrast and grain of some are too high that it makes it hard to see clearly what is in the photos. The images are more like vague shadows, splashes of ink, fragments of memory, not totally unlike a dream sequence, which fits the theme of the book.
Strange enough, his photos of Tono do not evoke a feeling of warmth and nostalgia, unlike most people’s idea of a home town. Looking at his photos, I feel a sense of uneasiness and alienation.
The high contrast, sharp edge of the vegetation seemed to evoke a sense of menace. Perhaps it has to do with the style of Moriyama’s photographs. When I look at his work, I always feel there is a sense of tension and uneasiness and irritation that is prominent in his high contrast, black and white photographs.
The people photographed seems to be friendly, but distance. To me Moriyama seemed like a tourist in his “home town”.
His photograph also reminded me of my own travel experience in some smaller cities in Japan.
Maybe it’s because I am a traveller who does not know much Japanese, it may also have to do with me coming from a big city. Walking in the small town in Japan made me feel a pleasant kind of loneliness, if that make sense at all. Perhaps this was what Moriyama felt too.
Perhaps this is what a “home town” is like. A small town without much going on, quiet with friendly (mostly middle-aged / old people). Maybe this is what Moriyama’s idea home town is like too, since he never mentioned explicitly his idea of “home town” in the book.
Thank you for reading.
(See more photobook review in my profile, or check out my medium profile)
My photography page:
其他關鍵字: photobooks,Moriyama Daido,Devouring Photobooks