City of Darkness

Not many photographers can claim access to, what was, the most densely populated and lawless city in the world. Greg Girard most certainly can. Girard is a Canadian photographer whose work has examined the social and physical transformation in Asia’s largest cities for more than three decades. Girard works on assignment for publications such as National Geographic Magazine.

Girard spent five years capturing the anarchic architecture of the lawless Kowloon Walled city. His images expose a throbbing mass of twisting artery-like hallways, chaotic catacombs and crumbling stairways that encapsulate the city’s accidental evolution.

Greg Girard’s photographs reflect the social transformation of the city, showing lives and experiences that, while extraordinary for us, are mundane and every day for the homes, businesses and communities that somehow thrived within the complexity of Kowloon’s walls.

Kowloon Walled City ©Greg Girard
Along with long-time collaborator Ian Lambot, the Vancouver-born Girard has spent most of his photographic career documenting, investigating and recording the colossal phenomenon that is Hong Kong’s Kowloon Walled City; transforming it into the infamous icon it is today.

Demolished in 1994, the former Qing dynasty fortress defied its historical confinement through human ingenuity, housing an estimated 33,000 people within the space of just one single city block. Even today the fascination in Kowloon Walled City continues to grow, stimulated by the many urban legends that forever circle around this extraordinary lawless community.

The project arose through a chance encounter. “I stumbled across it,” Girard says. “I had heard of it years previously, but never seen a picture of the place or met any who had been there. “One night I was photographing near Hong Kong’s old international airport when I came round a corner and saw this big thing that was so different from anything else, that it had to be the walled city”.

Kowloon Walled City ©Greg Girard
As time dissipates, the memory of Kowloon’s lost labyrinths live-on through Girard’s fervent imagery, providing a potent reverence to the fragility and dignity of such an accidental unprecedented relic of architecture.