CASE TOKYO is pleased to announce the exhibition A City Aglow by a Japanese Photographer Shunji Dodo, to be held from January 31 – February 15, 2020. The exhibition features 22 original prints from Dodo’s A City Aglow series (published as a photobook by Case Publishing in 2019).

August 1983, I was 36 years old. Byron Black, an American filmmaker who had dodged the military draft during the Vietnam war and had since been working in Thailand and Japan, told me about Bangkok—“It’s so similar to Osaka! We should really go there together!“—and so we made plans to go to Bangkok together for two weeks. Our flight left from Narita and went through Manila; twelve hours later we arrived at Don Mueang International Airport. We reached the city riding a cable car; it was not air-conditioned. Almost no lights were on in the nightly city, and all the bikes, tuktuks, trucks and taxis we encountered were old, beat-up models. They crawled forward, into an overwhelming cacophonic mess of horns, engine noises and exhaust gases. Moving, stopping, then moving again a few meters in the thick traffic, we eventually arrived at the “Swan Hotel”, a small travelers lodge in the back alleys behind the Oriental Hotel in the middle of the city. The sweat and the ringing in our ears had yet to stop.

The next morning, I surprised Byron with a young man in his hotel room and decided to out into the city on my own. I visit Hua Lamphong Station (Krungthep), the first station of Thailand’s international railway line. Somehow, it reminded me of Ueno station. Countless people came here from northwest Thailand, their hands, heads and backs filled with bamboo baskets of vegetables, clothes and other things ready to be sold here in the city. They returned carrying plenty of newly bought stuff—new shoes, radio cassette tapes, ventilators and so on. I felt I could have stayed near the station and watched the people for hours upon hours. I watched their faces, their bodies and gestures and imagined the kind of lives these people may be living.

Taking trains and busses, we went on a journey—to Mueang Chiang Mai, Udon Thani, Pattaya, Ayutthaya and more—before returning to Japan. I took very few photos. I had not been prepared for what I encountered.
March 24, 2019, the day of Thailand’s general election. The city is quiet, to my surprise—I had expected propaganda vans to drive around the streets, loudly advocating their respective parties. The focus lies on evaluating the military regime which had been in power for five years since the coup d’etat in 2014. All political parties hold meetings in Bangkok’s large public squares. Apart from the ban on alcoholic drinks, the city seems the same as usual.

What is brought about by the economic growth, the spread of technology and smartphones, the development of electronic currencies or mobile payment systems and the rise in diversity and change in values?
The overwhelming disparity in wealth that begins with birth, the absence of any necessity to question one’s responsibility—the pain of this absurdity grows larger in the hearts of Thailand’s young population. Can religion and religious art relieve this pain that Thailand’s societal systems fail to solve? Do modernization and globalization, with the high crime rates and the large gap between rich and poor that they bring with them, possess the power to change Thailand’s traditions and communities?
That is what I thought about as I walked around the streets as always, trying to take new, previously unseen photographs.
“How do people live? Can I see the essence of other people?”
I do not know if I was able to take a photograph to answer these questions. But I have arrived at the moment where I think it is all right.
I do not want to see anything anymore.

— Afterword by Shunji Dodo from his photobook A City Aglow


Shunji DODO 百々俊二

Born in Osaka in 1947. Graduated from the Kyushu Sangyo University Faculty of Arts Department of Photography and became professor at the Tokyo Shashin Senmon Gakko the same year. Became a professor at the Osaka Shashin Senmon Gakko (now: Visual Arts College Osaka) in 1972, and became head of the school in 1998. In 2015 he was appointed head of the Irie Taikichi Memorial Museum of Photography in Nara City. Continues to engage in photography both as a photographer and as a photography educator.

His photobook “A Radiant Land: Kii Peninsula” won the Annual Award of the Japan Photographic Society, his series “A Radiant Land with Thousands of Years” the Ina Nobuo Award. His photobook “Osaka” won the the 23rd Photographic Society Award and the 27th Higashikawa Prize’s Hidano Kazuemon Award.


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