Image Stories: The Death & Life of Great Asian Cities vol I – Éanna de Fréine

Busan, on the southern tip of the Korean peninsula, is a city in transition. Walking around for days with my camera, I come to observe that huge swaths of the city are being demolished and, at the same time, more and more high-rise apartment buildings are cropping up on the horizon. 

The wholescale destruction of such neighbourhoods are happening piece by piece, with some, as in the photo, being demolished and rebuilt at the same time. In this neighbourhood, all the buildings in the immediate foreground have already been raized. A woman takes down her laundry in the shadow of the new tower being built behind her. Soon, this neighbourhood, and her house, will be gone. 

Da Nang, Vietnam, though less well-known than cities such as Hanoi and Saigon, is a bustling, quickly modernizing city in central Vietnam. As the country begins to open up more and more to market capitalism, the cities become prime land for advertising. Huge billboards, such as the one in this photo, dominate corners of the city. 

Though Da Nang is not somwhere I would like to drive a car, it is strangely safe to walk in the middle of the road. To take this image, I stood for about fifteen minutes in the middle of a busy road. The traffic weaved around me without surprise or a single complaint. It took fifteen minutes until there was a short enough gap in the endless traffic for me to press the shutter for the first time.  

Everytime I leave my apartment just south of Namba in Osaka I am struck by something, or rather, an absence of something. It takes me a few weeks before I realise just what it is: there is almost a total lack of trees. This is a true urban jungle, where loose zoning laws mean that you can go from residential to commercial to industrial all within five minutes of each other. 

One of my favourite things to do when photographing in Osaka was to climb the the many fire escapes that run along the side of buildings. From here you can often reach the tops of buildings, giving you a new persepctive on the city. 

One day, on the way up to the top, I observed a woman hanging her laundry on the roof of her small house, squashed between other buildings in this extremely dense city. Behind her, a more modern apartment block looms over her, blocking the light to her house for many hours each day. A perfect illustration, I thought, of a truly urban life.