Photographs by Toshio Shibata
Nazraeli Press 2008
Reviewed by Joshua Spees
Often by the time I get around to wanting a book, I am months behind the list of the newest books on the market. So many come off the presses these days it is hard to keep up. Such was the case with Toshio Shibata’s Landscape 2. By the time I contacted Nazraeli Press to get my own they were long since sold out. With only a thousand hand numbered copies out there I was sure I was out of luck. Lucky for me I have Vincent Borrelli here in town who was nice enough to loan me a copy for a review.
Shibata has become one of Japan’s most revered photographers over the last decade. His original Landscape was released by Nazraeli in 1996 and quickly sold out. The second printing in 2000 did the same and he followed up with Dam in 2004. Switching from large format black and white to color for his latest release, the work takes on a whole new dynamic.
Landscape 2 has over five years of work and containing 84 images, the book has a lot to offer. Like his earlier works, Shibata continues to focus on the collision of man and nature and the never-ending battle to control it. Japan’s mountainous interior is constantly under attack by the forces of nature. Erosion is trying to bring Japan back into the sea and humans are trying to stop it when it impedes our own needs. Thus the mountains contain a bizarre conglomeration of attempts at halting nature’s reclamation.
A rigid structure within a natural order, the lines created by the construction take on the appearance of contour lines on a map following the hillsides and riverbeds on a mathematical path. The geometric pattern only becomes all the more beautiful when it begins to coalesce with the forces it is trying to control. The two are completely at odds, one trying to find a balance and the other trying to force a balance, yet together they form something that Shibata has the ability to make beautiful in his photographs. The eerie repetitiveness of the constructions with nature on all sides and quite often creeping back in only made me wonder, who is winning and who is losing?
There is no introduction, no foreword, and no explanation at all, something I find completely refreshing and really enjoyed about this offering. The photographs said all that needed to be said. Shibata’s work left me only wanting more by the time I got to the end of the book. The only thing that bugged me about the book was that the book contains eighty photographs from Japan and four from Oregon. Even without reading the text describing the images locations they felt slightly out of place. Had those four photos been left out, the book would have been just as successful in my opinion.
If you are looking to add some contemporary landscape to your photo book collection, I highly recommend this book.The book is bound in Japanese cloth with a slipcover and the images are printed exquistely on heavy paper stock. As a limited edition it is almost guaranteed to go up in value if you can stop looking at it long enough to keep it in great condition.