I have always liked the photo “Stray Dog” by Daido Moriyama. In spite of that I have never read or investigated Moriyama and his photography. A lot has been written about the Stray Dog as a metaphor for him and his work style. When he took up photography he moved to Tokyo and lived and worked in the Shinjuku Ward. That area was one of the liveliest areas of the city. He had been staying in a hotel near a U.S. military base in Misawa. As he left the hotel he encountered a scruffy stray dog. At the time it seemed nothing special. “In the morning, as soon as I walked out of the hotel, I saw a dog and I took the picture,” Moriyama has said. “I never thought it would be famous.” In an article in Utata Greg Fallis writes a fascinating analysis of the photograph and how it is symbolic of Moriyama and his work style. The dog is hard-boiled and is no one’s pet. It is tough and prepared to take care of itself. He is in a world he did not shape, living under circumstances beyond his control, and he deals with his reality as best he can. Fallis points out how this is similar to the way Moriyama approaches his photography. Roaming the streets, taking what he finds, accepting the world as it is.
I found my stray dog on Watauga River Road one winter day. It was down near the end of the road at the old sawmill. I was just out and about taking photos in the snow. The dog approached me, he did not growl, but I was respectful of him. He stood there for awhile and I noticed a half of a tennis ball in the grass and snow by the road. It picked it up and tossed it past the dog who turned, ran to the ball and brought it to me. I tossed it again and the dog fetched perfectly. We played for awhile and then I moved on. Thinking about the two dogs who were so similar in appearance and both out on their own, there are interesting comparisons to be made. The Tokyo stray dog is there in a busy and somewhat tough district of the city as it begins to emerge from the misery of its post war period. The dog is like the people who are suspicious, angry, and have seen the most devastating weapons of history used on their homeland and people. Best to be tough, cautious, and prepared to protect oneself.
I don’t think the Watauga dog is a stray. It was common for dogs who lived on the mountain behind me to venture down to the river to play. This dog obviously had had some training, was not fearful of humans, and just wanted someone to play with. Like me he had ventured out in the snow looking for something interesting to do. He found me and I am a genuine sucker for dogs! A much easier life and much less threatening expectations than Moriyama’s Stray Dog.