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A Moment of Light

Text: Yoshiko Nagai


There is a light like quality that emerges from photos with high contrast where the dark areas seem as if they were covered in soot. The metallic textures of metal itself, the glow of skin that is covered in sweat, and ones’ teeth that peek out from the mouth. All of these scenes possess a radiance about them.

There is a small factory that makes propeller screws on the edges of Dhaka in Bangladesh. These screws are necessary parts for those large cargo ships that transport things internationally and are made by the hands of young workers in a crude environment where the floors are covered in sand. There is almost nothing that looks like machinery on site. It starts with a fire, then metal shards that have been gathered get melted, the molten red liquid gets poured into a mold and cools off, and finally each part gets polished to complete the series of steps. Moreover, the heat, smoke, weight, and sound of the atmosphere can be felt in each frame that is captured. The work is hard and labor intensive yet requires a precision that is executed by the hands of young craftsmen as each screw and its details are scrutinized as they would be unusable if off by 1 millimeter; the natural light that enters the factory illuminates their story.

“The Screw” is a collection of photos gathered together as a book, taken by photographer Akihito Yoshida who visited this site again and again from 2012 to document the work of these young individuals. With the turning of every large sized page of this book, it almost feels like smoke rises and one can bear witness to the origins of creation, the birth of a new substance that is made possible with the blessings of fire and water.

There are few who have a profound knowledge of the processes through which the things necessary for daily life are made. It could be said that craftsmen are the only people today who truly understand through their experiences that metal is a construct of other materials such as fire, water and minerals. Work that forces a transformation in materials is inherently dangerous. This glorious moment that appears and disappears while the hard work is being performed can only be captured by the camera’s shutter.

Yoshiko Nagai
She became an independent curator, after having worked for a company planning and producing cultural activities. She connects creators, artworks, and audiences by creating and communicating values in a way that suits the environment. She is the author of “Out of line,” an exhibition by Alison Turnbull (2020, Tokyo), and the booklet Materia Prima, which is published irregularly.

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