In our new series, Inspirations from the Bookshelf, we look at books that have inspired us on our publishing journey. We start with a very special book - City of Darkness by Greg Girard and Ian Lambot. It is one of those classics that no collection is complete without.
It would be amiss to call this simply a photobook, though photos are a huge part of the story both Greg and Ian are trying to tell. This book is, in many senses, the definitive record of the Walled City of Kowloon, which was one of the most notorious areas of Hong Kong in the late British period.
I knew of this book for a long time, but I only recently acquired it after meeting one of the authors, Greg Girard, in Osaka in 2016. This is the updated edition, made possible by a Kickstarter campaign, with new essays, maps and historical photographs of the Walled City.
I really enjoy its attempts to balance the mediums of text and images in the book. Both work in tandem together, the images help to illustrate the stories told by the texts, and the texts help to further inform the images in the book. They can be understood separately, but it is together that the book is at its strongest.
This is one of my favourite images from the book: Seeing this image, the scale of the walled city really hits you. According to Greg’s website the city contained over 40,000 people squeezed into 350 buildings, packed into single block. Those numbers are hard to fathom, but the image gives you some sense of the sheer density of the city.
Greg Girard is a Canadian photographer, who spent much of his adulthood living in Asia - in Tokyo, Hong Kong and Shanghai. He came to know his subject over many years and the news of its impending demolition gave him the impetus to begin photographing and documenting the city.
As a book, it is certainly among the heavier ones in my collection. In total it is 356 pages with over 300 images in the book. It is a hardbound book, measuring 28x28cm, with a printed card slipcase.
I’m delighted to be talking to Greg about publishing a book of his work on the island of Okinawa in 2017. Watch this space.
All these books are books owned by Éanna de Fréine. We do not accept submissions to this series.