July 14, 2009
One of my favorite photography books of the last few years was Greg Girard's Phantom Shanghai. Girard, who is based in Shanghai, has recently updated his site with a set of knockout portfolios he collectively titled "Far East / Far West 73-86".
"Far East / Far West 73-86" features sets of images taken before Girard was a professional photographer. Of the work he writes:
"From 1973-1986 I photographed the familiar and unfamiliar parts the city where I was born, Vancouver, and made my first visits to Asia - when it was still more commonly referred to as the Far East, eventually living in Tokyo and later in Hong Kong. These are the photographs of an amateur, unschooled except by early exposure to Popular Photography magazine and the novels of Graham Green, Peter Handke and Paul Bowles, and inspired by the imagery and stories of films of the 70s. "
What strikes me about these images is not that they are unschooled but that they are all so consistent, the product of someone with a keen cinematic vision... and that the photographs, whether they were made in Vancouver or Tokyo or Las Vegas, each hold something of Shanghai within. So perhaps Shanghai was beckoning Girard all along and these images are a kind of visualized déjà vu, pictures of a place he already knew, but had yet to experience...