The photographs of Toshio Shibata achieve a unique harmony by focusing on the interweaving of natural forces with man-made structures. Long exposures capture water’s strength and innnate grace as it spills, crashes, and glides over constructed sluices and channels. Arcing paths of highways are seen carving into mountainsides and sheer cliff faces are transformed into repeating patterns as they are interlaced with human engineering. Using a large format camera, he eliminates most references to scale, sky, and horizon while providing crisp detail and texture. Under Shibata’s eye, the contemporary landscape becomes a mysterious abstract composition, the result of nature being entertwined with engineering.
Shibata began his career in Japan, and the photographs he made there explore the striking visual dichotomy, but also the poetry and even elegance, of an increasingly constructed Japanese landscape. In 1996 he was awarded a fellowship from the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago in 1996, that allowed him to travel to the US and make extraordinary pictures of American public works projects, this yielded his classic series depicting views of the Grand Coulee Dam in Washington State. The photographs from this period are a unique intersection of American engineering and an unmistakable Japanese aesthetic.