William Klein and Daido Moriyama. Tate Modern, London 12th January 2013

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I hadn’t been to London for around 7 years, and this was my first visit to the Tate Modern, finding it was relatively easy, it’s a huge imposing building on the side of the Thames next to the Globe theatre. Already impressed, I wasn’t expecting so much of the inner space to be vast and empty but this was just an indication on how huge an exhibition could be here. Collecting the tickets and gaining entry went smoothly, although it was frustrating not being able to take any photographs of the exhibitions or of the notes on each piece as I had to scribble the details down frantically and hoped that I’d managed to get most of it correct. As the exhibition was split between Klein and Moriyama, I’ll discuss them both separately and then summarise what I felt on the exhibition as a whole.

Stepping through the entrance into a dim room lit by a large video screen playing what I now know is’ Broadway by light’ was certainly overwhelming, on one side bright flashing video and soundtrack, the other had a wall stretching high above me with advertising images on them. It wasn’t what I was expecting from an entrance into a photography exhibition but it made more sense as I’d been through the different rooms. I felt that Klein was very mixed, and while I can appreciate his progression through the different methods, the way this was presented was jumbled, perhaps it was to show us that he has never really moved away from the ways of thinking and work in each area, coming back at a later data to add paint to contact sheets for example in ‘Club Allegro Fortissimo’.

For me, I would have preferred a logical move through time so that I could see how he had grown and progressed but then I guess when do we actually work in isolation and keep it all neatly segregated. Unfortunately as the exhibition is close to finishing, I won’t be able to return to have another look which I am sure it would benefit from. The wide open spaces certainly benefited this exhibition with walls full of blown up almost floor to ceiling images, highlighting that some images such as ‘Evelyn, Isabella and Nena’ with the models echoing the tall skyscrapers in the background still have as much visual appeal as they did when first photographed with striking contrasts of the black and white. I liked the posed fashion shot, even though some of the models look quite severe, it got me thinking about planning and the set up that goes into what I’d refer to as a fashion portrait.

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From these two iconic model images, we moved onto a huge wall of different portraits and then this flowed into more conventional hung images at eye height. His street photography covered different cities and some I found to be really interesting, and others such as the Tokyo 1961 series were a little disturbing. Without any clear narrative, when viewing a couple of the images such as the man on a bike grimacing and the man making what seemed to be wax heads, these seemed quite sinister and I was uncomfortable viewing these and it made me wonder whether Klein himself was at risk and how much acceptance did he have there? In direct contrast to that, the image of Tokyo night-time with its neon lights providing a fascination contrast between light and dark and then later in the exhibition I could see echoes of this in the painted wooden panels and the abstract patterns.

Street photography is one of those styles that I think a lot of students aim for but struggle to do and after viewing the New York images by Klein, I feel that he was stronger in these as he knows the area inside out compare to some of the other ones. They have a more coherent feel and while he cameras is right there in the middle of the situations, and the subject is often aware and looking at the camera, I feel there is more of a respect there than in the other image series such as Tokyo. Moving on from this, there was a video of excerpts from some of his films. I watched some of ‘Mr Freedom’ but didn’t really understand what it was about, the costumes and look of the film were eye catching but it just didn’t grab me. Following on, the final gallery of Klein’s looked at his contact sheets that he had revisited with enamel paint. After all the monochrome, the splash of colour on these was really eye catching with the organic painting providing a frame for the viewer to focus on. The only negative in this was that the impact of coloured paint on a coloured image of the funfair felt out of place and didn’t have the same power as the monochrome images.

A sample of Klein postcards

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Daido Moriyama

The next gallery was the start of the Daido Moriyama exhibition, in contrast to the Klein presentation, a lot of the images were presented as a smaller size and even in book form within cabinets, with an exception being the large work ‘Memory 2012’

Walking into this gallery, the first difference is the size of the images, they were smaller and on one wall all together like a collage and to see the details within these, and you had to stand close to study the image. As a comparison to Klein, the subject matter was much darker, and for some such as Provoke no 2 and Shibuya, this provoked thoughts and feelings of confusion as the images were blurred, confused as to why this image was taken and voyeuristic looking onto a moment that should be private not shared. It felt that Moriyama was showing two sides, one capturing a shadowy and hidden world where people are exposed in different ways and amounts, from the woman naked on the bed through to the aftermath of a car crash. The other of showing the mix of Japanese and western cultures merging, such as the stacked patterns of jars and boxes within a shop, later moving onto the larger images of commuters on a tube and an alternative portrait of a woman. Differing from this and really catching my eye were some of the abstracts such as Hysteric no 4, comprising of what seemed a large round fan in one images and spotted walls on another. It was hard to see what they were as objects but in monochrome the shapes and patterns were very striking and it was an interesting change.

One wall was taken up with Memory 2012, a large collage of a number of his works and I struggled to see how a number of what seemed random images fitted together into a coherent narrative. I stood there looking at them and I could group some into smaller themes but not one running through this. I bought one of his books and within this were some of the images and on their own with a couple of lines of narrative, they were much stronger compared to how they were displayed.

The Light and Shadow series of close ups of everyday images really stood out to me. While the rest of the exhibitions challenged me, this was much more comfortable as it’s similar to work I’d do. I found that because they were all monochrome that you focus on the shape and form of the subject, not what it or the overall image is. While for close up and everyday objects I tend to favour punchy colours, I’m going to try and experiment a little and see what they look like in black and white. The final outstanding piece for me was the room build built out of Polaroid’s, the idea to take hundreds of different colours, objects and rooms and then put them all together to project a room was very clever and there was so much to take in and look at within this installation. The exhibition closed on a video interview of Moriyama and some sample books before we exited through the gift shop.

Postcards and book by Moriyama

 

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Overall thoughts

– Too much to take in, too many rooms and images.

– Hard to see it all in one visit- would need to go back a couple of time

– Not always a clear narrative

– Felt I missed the input from other students and tutors which for a large and complex exhibition is really needed

– Personally I preferred Moriyama over Klein as I could identify with some of this work and the unusual subjects and compositions he showed.

Summary

Overall the exhibition was not about colour or black and white, but it was more light and dark, of the moods and content, different tones, how the content made us feel as viewers etc. I feel that both Klein and Moriyama were strong enough to hold their own exhibition in the whole of the space as opposed to sharing, and that the connection between the two wasn’t always that clear to the viewer. I’m pleased I managed to see it; not least it’s good to have the comparison of a large London show with what I’ve seen in my local area.

 

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