HK: PM Hong Kong Night Life 1974-1989 is the latest book release from Asia One Product & Publishing (AOPP). Described by Greg Girard, its author and photographer, as an “unintended record of ‘then’”, its colour-drenched images evoke what in hindsight seem like the dying years of old Hong Kong.
As the book’s subtitle implies, Girard’s photos were taken at night and early morning, largely (but not entirely) in and around the entertainment hotspots of Wanchai and Tsimshatsui. His motivation was simply to work as a photographer; to capture the feel and flavour of Hong Kong as it was in that particular moment.
That very lack of larger intention and artifice gives HK: PM a compelling ‘time machine’ quality. You, the reader, are there; another face in a world-weary nighttime crowd of sailors, policemen, loiterers, local toughs and would-be playboys. Where the lens pauses, so does the reader: outside neon-embroidered entrances to clubs and cabarets; in the streets, watching the passing of military police vans or the squabbling of feral dogs; on a Star Ferry crossing a misty Victoria Harbour; gazing upon the squalid simplicity of a tiny Yaumatei hotel room.
The world in HK: PM is seedy, dark, and saturated in latent violence and petty tragedies – and yet from the perspective of contemporary Hong Kong, it has its attractions. In HK: PM is at least one facet of Hong Kong as it was, and as it had been for almost 150 years: a barely-contained, utterly unique melting pot of the fallen and the rising, the ambitious and the mad, the desperate and the smug. It was a characterful place of unmanaged risks and pungent love-hate extremes. Hong Kong is most certainly no longer that place.