Red Bridge, Okawa – Analysis

Red Bridge, Toshio Shibata
Red Bridge, Okawa – Toshio Shibata, 2007
1. Take a close look at the photograph. What do you see?
  • I see strong, red triangles.
  • The roadway leads the eye to the triangles, then they repeat further into the picture giving a sense of depth.
  • The background is subtle, just enough light and detail to make out it is a forest on a steep hillside.
  • The pale yellows and whites of the roadway contrast with the background and the triangles.
2. What took your attention first? And where did your eyes move to after that?
  • The eye is immediately drawn to the red triangles, sweeps around those, then follows the roadway through them.
  • Only afterwards do you notice the forested slopes behind.
3. A picture can have many subjects, but what’s the main subject?
  • In simple terms the subject is plainly a bridge.
  • But where does it come from – we cannot see. And where is it going – we can see it appears to be a forest and hills, but not what conditions might be like on that side.
  • Metaphorically, the subject is a bridge from somewhere suspected to be a man-made/civilised place to somewhere natural/wild.
4. Describe the quality of the light and shadow. Note the atmosphere or mood of the picture.
  • The lighting gives the bridge a sense of solidity against the vagueness of the forest it leads to. There’s a suspicion that whilst the bridge is dependable and safe, the forest may not be.
5. Look carefully at the composition, the way the different shapes, lines and tones are arranged within the frame
  • The composition reflects what the lighting is telling me: the bridge is solid, hard, stable. Away from the bridge everytihgn is more uncertain.
6. What does the title tell you?
  • The simplicity of the title says that the photographer wants us to focus on the idea of a bridge, but he wants us to draw our own conclusions and generate our own response.
  • He doesn’t say why the bridge is there, where is comes from or where it is going.
7. Name every object, that is every ‘thing’ that’s in the picture.
  • What I am seeing is an apparently well made bridge going from an unknown place to a forested hillside.
8. Is what you’re seeing and what you’re describing the same thing? Or is there something you think you ‘know’ intuitively
  • There’s far more to this image than a simple bridge going to a forest.
    • There are no people or vehicles on the bridge.
    • There is a vague sense from its emptiness and its condition that it is utilitarian but maybe not much used.
    • There is no visible sky, which is a bit claustrophbic and adds to the feeling that the other side is wild, possibly dangerous.
9. What is your felt or personal response to the photograph?
  • Why is it there?
    • Does it offer an escape from some man-made place full of concrete and people and noise to somewhere more natural and peaceful?
    • Or is it a route from somewhere man-made but civilised and safe?
    • And if the other side is not civilised and safe, what could come across?
  • From an initial glance of ‘bridge, nice composition’ I’ve constructed a range of possible narratives for why it might be there. I’m sure the truth is mundane, but the image has put me in that place and triggered some creative thoughts.

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