Reflections and Refractions


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Asia One has published Reflections and Refractions, an exceptionally well-designed retrospective collection of Daido Moriyama's work over four decades. This book echoes two of his previously published photo albums - Auto-portrait (2011) and Sunflower (2012) - and brings Moriyama's self-portraits and street photography together with his iconic floral images, resulting in an intense fusion of the sensual and the rough.

On 150 full-bleed pages, the book presents us with Moriyama's subjective impressions in his renowned black and white snapshot style, forming a loose visual narrative telling of destruction and rebuilding, chaos, drama and sex. We see a dead bird, a crashed car, skin, lace, lips, Moriyama's shadow on the streets, a flash in the mirror. And flowers. On curtains and dresses, in trash bins and toilets, tattooed on a woman's back or casted in metal. In variety and depth, Moriyama grasps the essential beauty of flowers in black and white like no other.

The use of coarse-grain film and high contrast adds an incredible sense of texture to the dark, pensive stream of images. Be it the crisp crown of a withered sunflower or the curvy thighs of a woman in fishnet stockings, Moriyama always manages to add the illusion of a tactile sensation to his images, thus reinforcing their presence. They speak the language of drama and eroticism, of ephemerality and metamorphosis, and always hint toward the interplay between the self and the other, the self and the world. Moriyama himself introduces the book by saying: "Whether to shoot or to be shot, to see or to be seen, there's always a coherent link between the people and the world. It also perfectly resembles the relationship between reflection and refraction."

The brilliant design of the book reflects the gloomy sensitivity of Moriyama's images with its soft but grainy paper and unobtrusive aesthetic. Beneath the black and silver dust cover, a bright red softcover reveals itself, subtly playing with our notions of the erotic. The book comes in English and Chinese and contains essays by art critic Blues Wong and curator Hisako Motoo, who in the end finds the perfect words to grasp our fascination with Moriyama's beautiful black and white visions: "The innermost meaning of the work is inexpressible, but palpable to the viewer: Despite being mystified, we still push toward the light."

Reflections and Refractions is available from Asia One Books.