Review: Karyudo (A Hunter) by Daido Moriyama (Kodansha reissue)


Book Reviews, Photobooks




It seems safe to guess that many people will just hate the 2011 reissue of Karyudo (A Hunter) by Daido Moriyama. Instead of opting for the original layout the publisher, one of Japan’s largest and - as a Japanese student of mine told me - well known for its manga comics, produced a small book, with full-bleed images across the gutter (if its any consolation, the reissue of Japan: A Photo Theater even cuts up at least one image and produces two spreads out of it). I haven’t seen the original book (a quick Ebay search taught me I could either buy a copy or pay rent for half a year), but I’m absolutely loving this new version. (more)

Of course, I’m no expert on Japanese photographer. I’m also not a purist. I believe that for a photobook to work, all the different elements have to come together well. In this case, they really do. First of all, the book is relatively small, around the size of, surprise, surprise, a manga comic book. And it’s printed like a manga comic book, which, however, has the effect that in terms of the look and feel, the book is pretty similar to photobooks printed decades ago: The matte paper in combination with the way the blacks work gets very close to old b/w photobooks. Right now, I’m sounding like the purist I claim not to be. But if you’ve ever seen a reissue of an old b/w photobook on semi-glossy or even glossy paper you’ll realize what is lost.

The full bleed, across the gutter format works very, very well with these often aggressive, visceral photographs. I do think that treating these images are too sacred, claiming that they must not run across the gutter, does them a disservice: Their off-kilter compositions, often verging on almost falling apart, is truly reflected in this new format. It’s right in your face, it’s very dynamic. It might just breathe new life into a body of work that has so often been seen, a body of work that reissued in a most conservative way could have easily lost whatever life might have been left. Instead, with the manga format, looking through Karyudo (A Hunter) feels a bit like reading a James Ellroy novel - something created in the present, yet very much evoking the spirit of the past it is portraying. It’s a real page turner.

Highly recommended.

Karyudo (A Hunter) [reissue], photographs by Daido Moriyama, 192 pages, Kodansha, 2011

See my video presentation of the book here