Toshio Shibata - Photographer

Since my trip to Japan I’ve become interested in all things Japanese.  I recently bought a book by Toshio Shibata called Gas Stations 1983 & 1986. It’s a limited edition (500) of some very nice photos of gas stations at nite.  



I love this book because it’s small and so the photographer/editor/publisher have to make their statement with less ‘real estate’.  When I’m traveling and shopping for photo books it’s a real help if I can find something enticing in a small package - this certainly fills the bill.


Here’s what the publisher had to say


In the early 1980s, returning to Japan from a few years of traveling and living in Europe, Toshio Shibata began photographing night scenes of roadside Japan. Shibata has said of the experience of the road at night: “While driving on a highway at night in Europe I often experienced an imperceptible momentary sensation of transcending place, yet not knowing where I was. It seemed as if I could have been in Japan, or even in the United States. I felt that the scene was non-specific, but rather a kind of generic or archetypal common scene, universal image and part of a global world-view.”

Gas stations – especially in the dead of night – look more or less the same everywhere they are to be found. Yet their generic look can also provoke feelings of melancholy, even romance. 


Well known for his large-scale photographs of large-scale civil engineering in rural places, both in Japan and in the West, Toshio Shibata here presents the view with a book of seven jewel-like images of Japanese gas stations at night, beautifully reproduced and accompanied by a silver gelatin photograph, hand printed by the artist himself. 


“Toshio Shibata occupies a distinct place in landscape photography: His pictures don’t idealize pristine wilderness nor do they moralize about the damaging imprint humans leave upon the natural world. Shibata studies places of contact — where we have altered the earth — and finds reflection, wonder, awe.

Beauty, in his work, is inclusive, and purity is a matter of compositional elegance rather than rarefied subject matter.” — Leah Ollman, Los Angeles Times

Gas Stations: 1982 & 1986 is limited to 500 numbered copies, each including a 5x7 inch original print that has been signed by the artist.


Photographing Gas Stations is not new. 


 Ed Ruscha had his Twenty Six Gas Stations which was not a success when it first came out.  It is now almost impossible to obtain a copy


Twentysix Gasoline Stations is the first artist’s book by the American pop artist Ed Ruscha. Published in April 1963 on his own imprint National Excelsior Press, it is often considered to be the first modern artist’s book, and has become famous as a precursor and a major influence on the emerging artist’s book culture, especially in America. The book delivers exactly what its title promises, reproducing 26 photographs of gasoline stations next to captions indicating their brand and location. From the first service station, ‘Bob’s Service’ in Los Angeles where Ruscha lived, the book follows a journey back to Oklahoma City where he had grown up and where his mother still lived. The last image is of a Fina gasoline station in Groom, Texas, which Ruscha has suggested should be seen as the beginning of the return journey, ‘like a coda’. Originally printed in a numbered edition of 400, a second edition of 500 was published in 1967 and a third of 3000 in 1969. Neither of these later editions was numbered. It has been suggested that these reprints were a deliberate attempt to flood the market in order to maintain the book’s status as a cheap, mass-produced commodity. The book originally sold for $3.50.

Using Format