New to the Ackland: A Photograph by Daidō Moriyama

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A black and white photograph of a stray dog looking over its shoulder at the viewer

We encounter this dog at eye level, as equals. Composed in a stark and startling contrast of light and dark, the monumental mongrel all but fills the frame, lowering and turning its head to confront us with open mouth and alert eyes. This is the most famous photograph by the most famous photographer in postwar Japan, Daidō Moriyama, who shot it on the streets near a US Air Force base in Misawa in northeast Japan in 1971. Over the years, he has printed the negative of the stray dog in several different versions, with more or less contrast and graininess, in variant croppings, and sometime in reverse, with the dog facing left.

This experimental restlessness seems appropriate for the image of an opportunistic scavenger. Indeed, the photograph has come to be associated so closely with the photographer that it is sometimes interpreted, also by Moriyama himself, as a kind of self-portrait as an outsider. His 1991 retrospective exhibition at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art was titled “Stray Dog.”
The print acquired by the Ackland is part of a portfolio of twelve of Moriyama’s classic works, dating between 1969 and 1984, selected by the artist, printed in 2023, and published by Lapis Press. With this addition to the Ackland’s extensive photography collection, we are able to present the work of this major figure whose oeuvre captured the grittiness, alienation, and sometimes beauty of urban life in an era of powerful American influence on Japanese society.

— Peter Nisbet, deputy director for curatorial affairs

Image credit:
Daidō Moriyama, Japanese, born 1938, Stray Dog, Misawa, Aomori, 1971, printed 2023, archival pigment print, 13 3/16 × 19 3/4 in. (33.5 × 50.2 cm), Charles and Isabel Eaton Trust, 2024.3.1.4