One snowy stormy night, as he was walking home late after work, Eiji Ohashi could only find his way home thanks to the lights of vending machines. He realized they were glowing for him. Since then, Ohashi has been travelling all over Japan. For over 9 nine years, he has been chasing vending machines in very different surroundings. He understood that they were much more than simple machines. They were very symbolic of Japanese society.
There is probably no other country where vending machines can be found in such a large number. They can be found in every corner, every small village, and sometimes in the middle of nowhere. But just as people, the machines have to prove profitable to stay in place. When Ohashi came back to shoot a remote mountain location that he had photographed a few months before: only one machine resisted out of the two he had previously seen.
Vending machines are clearly part of the Japanese relentless efforts to make every aspect of life as convenient as can possibly be.
Ohashi's photographs of isolated machines questions Japanese values. He says: “The typically earnest and very methodical mentality of the Japanese has been a factor in the roll out of vending machines far and wide, but this same disposition has also contributed to Japanese society becoming oppressive and suffocating. That quest continues relentlessly, but we don’t need this degree of convenience in order to live. Rather, having achieved this level of comfort, we should now be asking what is the true essence of happiness.”
For Ohashi, vending machines are quite ubiquitous. While revealing the flaws of the society he lives in, he also says: “One message in my work is that I wish for a world in which each and everyone is able to shine”. Perhaps like the machines he has passionately photographed.
Eiji Ohashi, Roadside Lights
December 8, 2017 to January 13, 2018
119 Rue Vieille du Temple