Toshio Shibato

23rd August 2019

To prepare for this exercise (Exercise 1.11), research more of the work of Toshio Shibato whose images of dams and waterway reinforcements in Japan contrast the fluidity of water with the solidity of rock and concrete. They also document the way human beings interact forcefully with the natural environment.

OCA Foundations in Photography Coursework Folder pg50

I am still out on how I feel about Shibata’s photography. I believe this is because when I look at his work, it does not by all means scream out ‘ We are photographs!’ To me they look like strong abstract artworks formed by hard manmade edges and contrasted with the softness of the natural element water and Shibata is a visitor at the sculpture park taking images of these artworks. They are the ultimate Man ‘v’ Nature representations and breathtakingly dynamic in appearance.

When I first saw Shibata’s dam photographs below, I read them the wrong way. I thought the top third of the photographs were sky with clouds and the lower two thirds of which was water, I thought was running off towards a drop. It was not until I blew the photographs up for a closer look that I realised the perspective was looking down into water and the ‘clouds’ were water foam. There is so much texture, patterning and lines found within these photographs that they look as if they belong in the category of optical illusion etchings. The two images below are taken from Mutual Art website.

I have also realised that because Shibata’s images are so abstract in form, the size of the dams we are looking at and the area that they cover within the work are hard to determine. I found this particularly true of the two images below. We know that they are huge constructions but presented from the angles that Shibata has taken the photographs, they have taken on a very different premise. These images have been taken from the Akio Nagasawa website.

I am particularly interested in how the water has taken on different blurring textures within different images. These textures and forms vary from lines, soft cotton wool like irregular shapes and solid areas of white which have trails behind them reminiscent of a shooting star disappearing through the sky. The two images below show solid areas of white water falling down the dam. Below images taken from Akio Nagasawa website.

When I compare the six photographs above, I ask myself various questions:

  • Has Shibata created the different textures and shapes by altering the shutter speed to create the different visual feel?
  • Is it the type of water, how fast it is going, whether it travels in a straight line or is curving around a manmade construction, the angles that it is flowing at, or is it simply the speed at which it is travelling that causes the different outcomes?

It is such a shame that I will never get to see thee places and have a go myself. It is not just the water images that I admire but the fantastic shapes of the manmade constructions that Shibata has managed to find and shoot. Three of my favourites are shown below and are from artnet.com.

I have now come to my conclusion after researching Shabitas work further, and looking at his images through his career. It has been very interesting in deed looking further into Toshio Shabitas work. I have seen the mundane blurred water images a million times in magazines, exhibitions and even from friends and family on FaceBook. But Shibata has taken it 100 steps further and has taken the manmade constructions and balanced the water with them so that they become surreal and often otherwordly.

Next step for me is to read up on different works with water movement, but I know that it is going to be hard to beat this inspirational work!


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