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Greg Girard

CNN: Vintage photos show underbelly of boom-era Japan

When celebrated photographer Greg Girard landed in Tokyo in April 1976, he expected to spend only a few days in the Japanese capital. At that time a “broke traveler” in his early 20s, he was headed to more affordable destinations in southeast Asia.

He left his luggage at Haneda Airport and, with nowhere to sleep, spent his first night in Tokyo roaming the streets of the city’s lively Shinjuku district, camera in hand.

“I was just floored by the way everything looked, because it was never presented in the West, this modern city,” Girard recalled in a video interview, noting that his arrival was long before movies like “Blade Runner” and ’90s pop culture exposed mainstream Western audiences to Asian metropolises.

Greg Girard Takes Us Back In Time to a Pre-Bubble Tokyo for ‘JAL 76 88’

I’ll never forget the first time I came across City of Darkness: Life in Kowloon Walled City by Greg Girard. Even if the entire lawless enclave was long demolished by the time I made it to Hong Kong, the book was one of the reasons that I made the venture to the city. Girard’s ability to put viewers right in the middle of his clandestine locations transports you, not only back in time, but allows you to feel the rawness of each situation.

In his newest book, JAL 76 88, the Vancouver, British Columbia native highlights photographs he took from the years 1976 to 1988 in Tokyo, Japan. What was supposed to be a quick few days quickly led to weeks as the futuristic city enthralled his senses and fed his appetite for discovery and documentation. Spanning over a decade, the works in JAL 76 88 see the urban jungle of Tokyo through the lens of Girard as social and physical transformations were taking place from the pre-bubble era, the full-on explosion in wealth afforded by the bubble economy, and the cusp of what we now know as the Lost Decade.

Aesthetica Magazine – A Neon-Soaked City

Ridley Scott’s film adaptation of Blade Runner came out in 1982. It’s since become the blueprint for high-tech, neon-soaked dystopia and cyberpunk aesthetics: cities emblazoned with colourful billboards and 24-hour artificial light. Six years prior to its release, Canadian photographer Greg Girard (b. 1955) arrived in Tokyo. “Blade Runner-esque” had yet to enter the lexicon, and he was soon entranced by this modern, futuristic city. Girard quickly turned his lens on the city’s people and glowing nocturnal architecture. Now, this largely unseen collection of images is published in a new book: JAL 76 88.

Greg Girard – Mixmag

In 1974, Greg Girard arrived in Hong Kong on a freighter from San Francisco armed with not just a camera slung over his shoulder but a starry-eyed vision of capturing the raw electricity that was charging through the rapidly changing continent at night. With Asia full of promise and infinite possibilities, the Canadian photographer was at once spellbound and spent the 30 years that followed navigating the chaotic yet unencumbered neon-lit alleys of Hong Kong, Shanghai, Tokyo, Thailand and Vietnam.