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Legendary photographer Toshio Shibata’s first monograph with Deadbeat Club is a true collaboration between artist and publisher. “I feel like this is a new interpretation of how I moved my subject from the night to the day,” he says of the book. “It even feels like some kind of destiny.” It’s a welcome fate for Shibata’s numerous admirers and collectors, as these 70 black-and-white photographs were made between 1980 and 1988 and have remained largely unpublished and unseen for some 35 years.
The structural concept is seemingly simple: a progression through a sequence of nighttime photographs into a set of images made in the day, but – as always with Shibata – nothing is as straightforward as it first appears. Intense light sources, both indoor and outdoor, make the nocturnal scenes even stranger than they would be if enveloped in darkness. As for the daylight pictures, heavy masses of constructed earth and stone serve to ground us in a world that is anything but bright and airy. And in the pivot between day and night lies a foreboding tunnel that subsumes both the luminous and the murky.
As the title Day For Night implies, it is in Shibata’s camera that light and darkness swap roles. “The title gives another layer to the book,” he says. “I knew that technique since my childhood through watching ‘Rawhide’ on TV but until now I’d never seen my own work with such an eye.” The result is a book that confounds expectations, not only for its viewers, but even for its maker.
Shibata’s work can be found in the permanent collections of museums worldwide, including The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Victoria and Albert Museum; London; La Maison de la Photo Europeenne, Paris; Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Art; and The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo.
BRITISH JOURNAL OF PHOTOGRAPHY