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City of Darkness: Life In Kowloon Walled City Paperback – June 6, 1999


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 216 pages
  • Publisher: Watermark (June 6, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1873200137
  • ISBN-13: 978-1873200131
  • Product Dimensions: 10.6 x 10.4 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #609,537 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Greg Girard is a Canadian photographer who has spent more than 30 years photographing in Asia, living first in Tokyo in the late 1970s, Hong Kong in the 1980s and 90s, and based in Shanghai from 1998 until 2012. His work examines the social and physical transformations taking place in the region. "City of Darkness: Life in Kowloon Walled City", published in 1993, in collaboration with Ian Lambot, documents the final years of one of Hong Kong's most infamous yet little understood neighborhoods. "Phantom Shanghai", with an introduction by William Gibson, published in 2007, looks at the extraordinary changes that have taken place in China's largest city, as the early 20th Century Chinese/International city is replaced by a centrally-planned 21st Century version of itself. "Hanoi Calling" and "In the Near Distance" were both published in 2010. "In the Near Distance" brings together early photographs taken between 1973 and 1985, in Asia and the West; "Hanoi Calling" looks at often ignored elements of the everyday in the Vietnamese capital on the eve of its millennium anniversary in 2010.

Greg Girard presently lives in Vancouver, Canada.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

47 of 48 people found the following review helpful By Kev on March 4, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Everyone who I have ever shown this book to has had a deep reaction to it. I wouldn't handicap this book by calling it a photography book alone, although the photos are very powerful and prominent, but the text deserves recognition as well. Plenty of personal stories of how people made this decaying city their home. Both epic and intimate. A testament of the human animal's ability to adapt and thrive. Thank god the authors got in to Kowloon before its destruction to create this book.

Also, as a side note: Any artist wanting reference material for decaying urban sprawl, look no further. This book makes for great city or science fiction reference, with unbelievable details (electrical boxes, pipes, hallways, stairwells, etc...)
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38 of 40 people found the following review helpful By A. Lau on September 2, 2005
Format: Paperback
I was born in Hong Kong and lived in the Walled City for 2 years with my mother when I was 10. Love the photos, history, and facts about the walled city, bring back lots of memories.
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35 of 39 people found the following review helpful By J. Lamarca on September 8, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Update - 5 stars: I wrote a review before and gave a 2-star rating because I had a quality issue with this book - the binding on my copy came unglued after looking through it once or twice. Well, the author, Greg Girard, actually tracked me down on facebook and kindly offered to send a replacement free of charge. This replacement copy has held up beautifully for the past year or so as it has been looked through numerous times by houseguests. The first copy I had must have just been flawed. I tried to change my rating to a 5-star but it doesn't seem to want to let me.

As I said in my original review, the photos are stunning, the text and interviews fascinating, and the quality of the paper excellent.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By jw468 on March 14, 2014
Format: Paperback
The authors of this book are coming out with a new edition, which is scheduled to be available mid-summer 2014. To help fund production costs, a Kickstarter campaign has been started, just search Kickstarter City of Darkness Revisited. The first hit will be the one you want.

Here are some snippets from the official website for the new edition:

"The new edition will include extended new sections on the history of the Triads in the City, the City’s peculiar legal status, its architecture, and how it is has become part of popular culture."

"...as well as many of the photographs and interviews found in the original edition, the new book will include several new sections: on the City’s architecture, how it grew and evolved over time, and on the City’s peculiar legal status under two jurisdictions but effectively administered by neither, and how this unique situation coloured every stage of the City’s development. Another essay will explore the myths and realities of the Triad’s activities there, and how the police tried their best to keep up with each new development."

"Finally, other essays will explore how perceptions of the Walled City have changed over time, from being shunned by most Hong Kong residents during its lifetime to now being seen, almost with pride, as part of the territory’s rich cultural heritage – while internationally it has been appropriated by numerous cultural and popular commentators as a tabula rasa onto which they can layer any number of meanings and arguments. The Walled City’s rich history just continues to grow."
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Lars Rolfsted Mortensen on March 19, 2007
Format: Paperback
the book offers great insight in the extreme circumstances under which people lived in the kowloon walled city. superb photografic material covering a wide aspect of the city and relevant text. a must for people interested in urban vernacular architecture.
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Format: Paperback
If you can find a copy of this book and can convince someone to let you paw through it, do so.

It's long out of print, collectible, and fragile due to the fact it's softcover. Did I mention it's expensive? It is, but oh, is it worth it!

I put off buying a copy for many years because it was just too expensive for a book I couldn't look at first -- and whose value I'd damage just by opening it. However, after reading Wikipedia's small section on Kowloon Walled City I was so intrigued that I knew I had to buy it.

I debated a long time about pulling the cellophane cover off. Had to end up doing it after a few drinks. Once I opened it, I realized it was everything I'd hoped it would be.

Understand, Kowloon was destroyed several years ago. It no longer exists. No real maps were ever made of the place and the most complete record of it exists in these pages. It's as close as you can get to visiting the city without somehow going back in time.

And what is Kowloon Walled City? It was 6.5 acre piece of property where regulation was non-existant and the population built and built and built until it was a solid block of a building fourteen stories high with absolutely no planning or design. Everything went on within its walls and it was a fully functioning city outside of Hong Kong. Sort of a city state, sort of a country, sort of an anarchist commune, and completely unlike anything built before or since.

This book is the only key to unlocking the understanding of what it was to live and breathe within those walls. Of course it gets five stars, how could I give it anything else?
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