"Photographs come back to life again" A talk with Daido Moriyama × Nobuhiko Kitamura (Hysteric Glamour) Part 1

A historical conversation about the legendary 1993 photobook "Daido hysteric no. 4” and its 2022 retrospective solo exhibition, “DAIDO HYSTERIC”.

Edit & Text by Yukihisa Takei (HONEYEE.COM)
Photo by Keisuke Nagoshi (UM)

A history born from 300 copies

A limited edition reissue of Hysteric Glamour’s 1993 photobook "Daido hysteric no. 4” has been co-published by Harajuku-based Gallery COMMON and Akio Nagasawa Publishing. The photo exhibition, entitled "DAIDO HYSTERIC”, also started at  Gallery COMMON on April 29.

The photobook, informally known as Ao Daido (Blue Daido), was published in 1993 with just 300 copies to its name, but soon after its release it received a huge response and is now a legendary title even on the second-hand book market.

Twenty-nine years after its release, Satoru Arai, a young gallerist who was strongly influenced by the book, put great effort into reissuing 900 copies of the book and presenting a retrospective photo exhibition based on its contents. Ao Daido is recognised as an important landmark in the history of art x fashion and photography x fashion crossover in Japan, but also as a key work  in talking about the career of internationally popular photographer Daido Moriyama himself.

In commemoration of the launch of this reissue edition and the photo exhibition, Daido Moriyama and Nobuhiko Kitamura had their first conversation in many years.

We present this HONEYEE.COM exclusive interview in two parts, Part 1 and Part 2.

“I could hear all sorts of sounds in Moriyama-san’s work”

Daido Moriyama and Nobuhiko Kitamura arrived at Gallery COMMON a few hours before the reception of the photo exhibition for this talk. They enjoyed reuniting each other for the first time in more than ten years, checked out the works that had just been displayed, and after a short chat, they sat down for the interview.

- Firstly, I wanted to ask, was 300 copies considered a large number or a small number back in 1993?

Nobuhiko Kitamura (Hysteric Glamour): Well, it was barely within our limit at the time. I thought that if we made too many, we might not be able to sell them all. The three photo books we had published before were not for sale, but we decided to put a price on them for the first time to sell them as a limited edition because they were a collection of Moriyama-san's work.

Daido Moriyama: I didn't know that. This is the first time I heard that there were 300 copies. I thought it was a bit more than that.

- So Kitamura-san, how did you first get attracted to Moriyama-san's work?

K: When I started this photo book series (1991), I didn't know Moriyama-san at all.

At first, I was reaching out to photographers who were close to me or to whom I was introduced for commissioning, but after a couple of issues, I began to worry because I wasn’t sure how things would turn out if I continued with the series. Around that time, Osamu Wataya, who is a photographer and curator and also started this series with me, invited me to his house in Hachimanyama for hanami (cherry blossom viewing). It was a beautiful day, the cherry blossoms were in full bloom and the sky was blue. Then, he said, "I've got some photobooks I want to show you, Nobu," and it was Moriyama-san's "Light and Shadow" (1982) and "Shashin Yo Sayonara (Farewell Photography)" (1972).

- What was your first impression when you saw Moriyama-san's work?

K: Oh, I was so surprised. I was like, 'There's an artist like him in Japan?' I've always loved music, and I was only familiar with photography at the time, just checking who took the record covers of my favorite bands, but Moriyama-sans work was really eye-opening. The particles and everything in the images were exploding, and as I turned the pages, I could hear all sorts of sounds. We started discussing if we could work with him on a photo book, and Wataya visited Moriyama-san a few days later.

“Let’s make a photo book because fashion photography is boring"

- And did you know the brand Hysteric Glamour at the time, Moriyama-san?

M: I had heard of the brand name, so I kind of knew it.

- As a photographer, how did you feel about the offer to publish a photo book with fashion brand Hysteric Glamour?

M: After I got the brief, they showed me their first photo book. It's very nice when you look at it now, but I was a bit nasty at the time (laughs), so I was like, "What the heck is this?”. But after Wataya-san explained the idea to me, I answered, “I’ll do it if we can make one with just my work". Kitamura-san and Wataya-san must have worked hard to make it happen. I didn't expect it to be this thick, but I was glad to see that. I was simply happy to be offered the opportunity to work with someone from a completely different field that wasn't related to a photography magazine or anything like that.

- Hysteric Glamour’s clothes weren’t featured at all in this photobook. Were there any previous examples of this kind of fashion and photographer collaboration around that time?

K: Yohji Yamamoto-san (Yohji Yamamoto) and Rei Kawakubo-san (of COMME des GARÇONS) were publishing books that were not just lookbooks, but collections of their work, and art books like “Six”, so I was inspired by that at first. Before that, I was making the seasonal catalogues with photos taken on location in Mexico, Guatemala or across the US with models wearing our clothes. But after a few seasons, I realised that in the end, no matter which location and what model wears the clothes, it all changes depending on who takes the photos. Around that time, I went to help one of my photographer friends move house one day and found some old copies of “provoke"* and other books in the back of the house, that was when I realised that there is another way to do things like this. As I was getting bored with fashion photography, so I decided to start making a photo book, and that led to the first issue.

*A photography zine founded by Takuma Nakahira, Yutaka Takanashi, Koji Taki, Takahiko Okada and others, first published in 1968. Daido Moriyama also participated.

- Was it OK for the company to produce a photo book that doesn't show the brand's clothes?

K: While I was making the second and third issues, some people from the company were asking me, "What are you doing, Kitamura? Are you sure you're alright?" But after I met Moriyama-san and this book was published, the way they see things has completely changed.

- Why was that?

K: First, fashion magazines and then newspapers featured it. At that time, it was very rare for Hysteric Glamour to be covered as a clothing brand in the newspapers. The fact that our brand was featured helped the photo book project get acknowledged by the company.

The two year journey from initial planning to launch

- Kitamura-san was 29 or 30 years old when he published the first photo book. Then he was 31 when “Ao Daido" was published, and Moriyama-san was 54 or 55 at the time.

M: Was I that old by then?

- Young people used to be a bit more mature back in the day, but I still think it's impressive that a young fashion designer, who was not even 30, would approach a photographer who was a quarter of a century older.

K: When I was looking at Moriyama-san's portfolio, I was nervous that he might be a difficult or scary person, but when I actually met him, he was so kind and told me a lot about Andy Warhol and other things not just about photography.

- Moriyama-san, do you remember your first impression of Kitamura-san?

M: Of course, I remember. Rather his age, it left more of an impression on me that there were these people from the fashion industry who wanted to make a book about photography and my work. I always wanted to work with people who were not in the photography field. I was looking for a different kind of platform for my photos, not in a static place like a photo magazine or something like that. I like T-shirt designing and that kind of thing, too. When I met Kitamura-san, I felt that I was moving more and more toward that direction. Like "Oh, it doesn't really matter what I do. He'll let me do whatever I want”.

- Did you edit the "Ao Daido" with work that Moriyama-san had previously shot?

K: No, I didn’t. Since it was agreed that I could work with Moriyama-san on this book, we decided to make a thick one. Then, Moriyama-san spent a year and a half or two years shooting for this project. I was simply very happy. It wasn't like he handed me his past works like “Here you go” and told me to take my pick.”  He started from zero shooting completely new photographs to publish the book.

M: I definitely wanted to show the works that I was taking then, not the ones from the past, and I wanted to make a photo book made with the photos that I was going to take. So I bought a small second-hand camera and decided on my own to make a book with it.

- What type of camera was it?

M: I don't remember anymore. I think it was maybe an Asahi Pentax. Anyway, I only use small cameras. I had just moved to Yotsuya 3-chome around that time, so I wanted to take photos in a way that would spread out from that place.

K: Was it soon after you moved there?

M: That’s right. And of course, because I was in the Shinjuku area, I took pictures of Shinjuku too. And at that time, I said, "For this photo book we're going to make, I want it to be all vertical photos". No horizontal shots. I told him I want to use this second-hand camera and only take vertical photos.

- Did you two discuss the content and direction beforehand?

K: Not at all.

M: In my case, not just with Kitamura-san's, it's like, “If you're going to do it, you can do whatever you want”.

K: At first we were talking about 'about a year', but Moriyama-san said he wanted to spend a bit more time shooting, so we ended up spending a year and a half.

M: Yeah, that's about it.

K: So it probably took about two years, from when he first started taking the photographs up to the editing.

“Editing photographs taken over two years into a book in one night is so Beatnik”

M: When we selected the photos, we lined up hundreds of photos on the floor of Kitamura-san's office and worked late into the night.

K: We laid out a sheet of paper in our press room and put about 800 photos that Moriyama-san brought on it, and we all marked them. We were planning to narrow it down to about 400 images, so we laid out the ones that had been selected again, and Moriyama-san checked them. We were also deciding the order of the photos and putting them into groups.

M: That’s right, I remember that.

K: For "Red Daido", I think we started working in the evening and had already finished editing by 9 am. So we made it in one night from photos that had been shot and collected over a year or two. That was fun, wasn't it?

M: Yeah, it was fun.

K: We both admired Jack Kerouac and the Beat Generation in some ways, so "Editing photographs taken over two years into a book in one night is so Beatnik, isn't it? This is cool, Kitamura-kun", I remember Moriyama-san saying to me.

- It's such an exciting time for me to hear about it. I'm sure now you do layouts on the PC, but laying it out on the floor and so on is just…

K: It's so analogue right? (laughs). But it was a lot of fun to do.

M: The book was interesting in that way too.

- Moriyama-san, I know you work with various editors on photo books, but is there anything that you feel about the characteristics of Kitamura-san's selection of photographs or anything else?

M: In those situations, it’s more about something that comes out of the group, rather than an individual characteristic.

K: It was always four or five people, including me and Moriyama-san.

M: Yes, that's right. In those moments, we weren’t working with the photos as complete pieces, but lining them up as a series of 'fragments'.

K: Horizontal photos can be a single spread in a book, but for vertical works, we would decide on the other work first, for example, "This photo and that make a good combination".

- For the selection process, did you print everything out and bring it?

M: Yes, like 800 prints. And then I let everyone select what they liked.

- You could say it’s a process that doesn’t have a final answer. Is there a decisive factor that leads to four or five different people agreeing "This is it!"

M: It's not logical. It's a feeling. Everyone has their own sensibilities, and as you go along, you start to see how the book should be.

Evening gatherings and "Daido Pâté".

K: Back then, me and Wataya used to visit Moriyama-san's studio in Yotsuya a lot.

M: We used to drink together a lot.

K: Moriyama-san used to prepare wine and baguettes and pâté for us. That pâté was so good. We would eat it and talk about all sorts of things, and we always drank until the morning. We would talk about all sorts of things. Moriyama-san would get drunk and get into debates with Wataya, and there would be  photography theories and such that would come out of those arguments. That's when I heard all kinds of stories. Without that, it would have been almost impossible to put something together in one night like that. We couldn't have done it if we had only gathered just for that. There is something in the time we spent drinking and arguing about silly things until the morning.

M: It wasn't just the time we spent selecting hundreds of photos to put down, but also the time we spent drinking and talking together, all of that became that book.

- I am excited just hearing the story.

K: By the way, "Daido Pâté" is popular among people around me recently. Moriyama-san taught me the recipe and my wife used to make it. Then when she cooked it for our guests, they all said, "This is delicious!” then she would reply, "I learnt this recipe from Moriyama-san", and somewhere along the way everyone started calling it "Daido Pâté" (laughs).

M: Is that so?

- Did you originally make the recipe for the pâté yourself, Moriyama-san?

M: I mean, it's not something so great. I just made it up as I cooked.

K: But it tasted good. I miss it.

(Continued in part 2)