By Charles Pryor
One of photography’s most enduring qualities is its ability to allow a piece to remain relevant across generations. While some photographers set out to capture images as a means of reflecting on current affairs, the resulting photographs could potentially continue to hold meaning for years to come. Daido Moriyama proves just how resilient the art can be with his “How To Create a Beautiful Picture 6: Tights in Shimotakaido.” At the time of their creation, these photos, among many others, were meant to highlight the deterioration of traditional values in a rapidly changing, post WWII Japan. The puzzling perversion that characterizes this particular series speaks to the consequences of modernism by isolating the evolved recklessness of sex. However, while the series is meant to critique a specific moment in time, it manages to retain a significant cultural relevance that not only transcends temporal boundaries, but national ones as well. “Tights in Shimotakaido” not only reveals the rather concerning way that sex was changing in post WWII Japan, but the way it has become more complicated all over the world. The mesh tights that characterize Moriyama’s series play conflicting roles by simultaneously satisfying a particular fetish while also complicating the female body.
In some ways, the mesh is used to highlight the more arousing parts of the subjects’ bodies. The curves are accentuated as the black fabric conforms to the shapes. The mesh seems to be crawling across the body towards the most tantalizing parts, taking the attention of the spectators with it. However, as arousing as these images may be, they are so close-up that we are encouraged to take a step back just to figure out what exactly the subject is. The mesh transforms the photo into a puzzle, one where we are left to distinguish body parts amidst the myriad of curves. In one of the photos, it is difficult to figure out where a leg ends and the foot begins, as a section of fabric creates the impression of a shadow and makes the foot appear to be emerging from underneath the leg. The warped structure distracts the spectator and takes away from the sexual pleasure of the image. The photo demands more appreciation for the ensemble than the body itself. There’s a certain carelessness towards the individual in these images, as the mesh is so prominent in all of them that it is difficult to distinguish the bodies from one another. This overall speaks to a similar carelessness seen in “hook-up” culture perpetuated in modern America as well. The sense of intimacy is lost in these photos, and in its place is a fleeting sense of satisfaction.
Even if the spectator can sort out the shape of the image’s subject, they are not even rewarded with the nude form. The subjects wear underwear that leave a fair amount to the imagination. It is through this structural choice that the spectator reaches an astonishing revelation: the pleasure in this image is not necessarily derived from the body itself, but in the process of mentally undressing it. It appeals to the spectator’s perversion without granting satisfaction, encouraging their lust and driving them to seek out images of similar ilk. Once again, the sense of intimacy in these photos becomes lost, as we are left with an over-saturation of images that appeal as a short term satiation of our perverseness. These images force us to confront our decreased attention span towards sex.
Daido Moriyama is represented by Steven Kasher Gallery. For more information see: http://www.stevenkasher.com/artists/daido-moriyama
Article © Charles Pryor
Images © Daido Moriyama courtesy of Steven Kasher Gallery