Foreword by Christopher Philips
Format & Features
Hardcover, 7″ × 9.75″, 160 pages
100+ colour and black & white photographs
April 1, 2019
$50.00 / £35
About Tokyo-Yokosuka 1976–1983
Greg Girard’s photographs from Tokyo-Yokosuka 1976–1983 are artifacts of a pre-bubble Tokyo, before it acquired imaginative shape as the late 20th Century’s default for a 21st Century city. Television, cinema, newspapers and magazines were the prevailing outlets for information and entertainment. The US Seventh Fleet, based in nearby Yokosuka, was a reminder of the late Cold War realities of the day.
The Seventh Fleet today is still based in Yokosuka though the Cold War has come and gone. So too for the most part has the notion of Tokyo as a “futuristic” city, following twenty years of Japan’s economic flat-lining. The city is no longer as distant as it once was. Few places these days are. But for Tokyo there is perhaps an unforeseen 21st Century outcome: Tokyo as the new Paris. Foreign enough and yet familiar enough to attract legions of overseas visitors. Many who fall in love with the city and keep coming back. Or decide outright to move there, as North Americans in particular did in Paris in the 1950s through the 1970s.
A similar response, a similar decision, set Girard loose in late 1970s Tokyo. These photographs, largely unseen since they were first made, reveal a pre-Blade Runner Tokyo, just before neon-drenched near-future Asian megacities entered the popular imagination. Girard’s Tokyo mixes post-war scruffiness with a transitional modernity, moments before the city (and Japan) slow-motion exploded into our late 20th Century consciousness.
By comparison the port city of Yokosuka, home to a sprawling US Navy base southwest of Tokyo, is less known. First learning about it via radio broadcasts from the US Forces Far East Network, Girard started spending time there on weekends, photographing US service members and the bars and clubs near the base. As Japan, and Tokyo in particular, was about to launch itself into Tomorrowland, the base and its host community (and others like it in the region) were beginning to tip into Yesterday.
However much nostalgic appeal these photographs might have, their real value may be that they provide a glimpse of the moment when two historical streams pass each other heading in opposite directions. One, the decline of US pre-eminence in the post-War world, particularly in Asia; the other, the emergence of the non-West, an Asian city, as the default for what our future looks like.
I first arrived in Tokyo in 1976, intending to stay a day or two on my way to SE Asia. I checked my luggage at the airport, took the train into the city and got off at the bright lights of Shinjuku. I wandered the streets all night and by morning decided I was going to stay. —Greg Girard
Meet the Artist
Greg Girard is a Canadian photographer whose work has examined the social and physical transformations in Asia’s largest cities for more than three decades. City of Darkness Revisited,released in 2014, revives an early collaboration with co-author Ian Lambot, and updates their seminal book, City of Darkness: Life in Kowloon Walled City (Watermark, 1993).
Based in Shanghai between 1998 and 2011, his photographic monograph, Phantom Shanghai(Magenta, Toronto, 2007), with a foreword by novelist William Gibson, looks at the rapid and at times violent transition of Shanghai as the city raced to make itself “modern again” at the beginning of the 21st Century.
Other titles include Hanoi Calling (Magenta, Toronto, 2010) and In the Near Distance (Kominek, Berlin, 2010), a book of early photographs made in Asia and North America between 1973 and 1986.
Girard’s work is in the collections of the National Gallery of Canada, The Art Gallery of Ontario, the Vancouver Art Gallery and other public and private collections. He is represented in Canada by Monte Clark Gallery. In addition to book projects and gallery work, Girard is a contributing photographer to National Geographic magazine. “How the DNA Revolution is Changing Us” appeared in the August 2016 issue. Other stories include “Can China Go Green?”, “The Kingdom of David and Solomon”, and “Bitter Waters: China’s Water Crisis.”