Anyone who has wandered Bangkok's neon-lit streets at night will know this is a city that barely sleeps. But if you venture a little further away from the popular spots like Sukhumvit or the Grand Palace, you can find something a little more quiet and subdued.
During the auspicious July heat of the Buddhist holiday, Asalha Puja, New Zealand photographer Cody Ellingham did just that. He landed in Bangkok on a journey to uncover the hidden nocturnal side of the Thai capital with a new photographic series, Bangkok Phosphors.
He wanted to explore "the paths less travelled". From the massive oil refinery on the banks of the Chao Phraya River to the intertwined side streets of the Khlong Toei night market and shantytown, his series was captured over five weeks as he went out every night to discover the changing face of the megacity between the old way of life and modernity.
"Bangkok is a city defined by the light and shadow of night," says Cody. "From concrete canals and forgotten temples shining under the glow of streetlights to old cars rusting on the streets next to blaring television sets in the night markets. Because it is always so hot, many people live nocturnal lives and there are these moments when you see just a slight shadow of someone."
In one shot from the series, he captures a young 'iceman' delivering large blocks of ice from the back of an old truck in an alley silhouetted against the Temple of Dawn. In another image, he photographs an ornate golden shrine contrasted with a concrete apartment building, with soda bottles laid out as offerings to the spirits.
Best known for neon cityscapes documenting the past, present and future of Tokyo in projects like Danchi Dreams, Cody together with his wife, Rina, left Japan in 2019, setting out on a journey to explore and photograph the world’s megacities, spending time in Shanghai, Hong Kong, and now Bangkok.
The city was chosen as the subject for this new series in part because of its aesthetic connection with the 1970 novel, The Temple of Dawn, by Japanese author Mishima Yukio, which was partly set in Thailand. As Cody explains: "My first taste of Bangkok was through this novel, written fifty years ago, which deeply inspired me with its idyllic imagery of an old city of canals and temples. I wanted to come here and see how the modern city had changed with my own eyes: I found the canals has been mostly replaced by congested concrete roads and the chaos of change ... but still, the city had a kind of magic to it."
Cody is now planning to release Bangkok Phosphors as a limited-edition photobook through Kickstarter, a platform where people can help support the creation of projects. The crowd-funding campaign will run until 29 September.