In Focus: Jirga Para Lhao

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

This is the second in a set of updates that focus in on some of the iconic virtual cities that will feature in The Continuous City, and how they have been photographed to reveal them in a new light.

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You may never have heard of Jirga Para Lhao—as the central city of Gravity Rush 2 it wears its name lightly, favouring an association with the wider series instead—and yet you might remember it. There's something unavoidably distinct about its floating islands of urban high-rises, its golden domes and watertowers glinting in the clean light of an anime sun. More than Hekesville, the star city of the first Gravity Rush, Jirga Para Lhao feels like a dreamy twist on somewhere real, a lost memory supended in the clouds. In fact, that's exactly what it is.

Jirga Para Lhao didn't pop into the mind of director Keiichiro Toyama fully-formed. Instead it is an acculumlation of many trips around South-East Asia and South America. It is a gathering of the pieces left over form those journeys, the memories and snapshots that Toyama brough back. For this reason it's no suprise that the game has its own camera, complete with a wonderful square aspect ratio and soft vingette—It wants the player to be a traveller, a tourist. When I came to photograph the city for The Continuous City this was something I wanted to make use of. Rather than push against the in-game camera, I let in guide my perspective. In a city floating on the clouds, where each street houses a spectacular view across rooftops, it also refocused my work on details, not vistas. 

The photographs I took became acts of rediscovery, extracting the textures and delicate compositions that the world was built from. What emerged was a sense of humanity, of the marks of a city that feels lived in. Many of the images I took of Jirga Para Lhao feature in the Entrances section of The Continous City, perhaps because it is a game that suggests interiors without ever showing them. In reality the city of Jirga Para Lhao is a shell, empty exteirors and nothing more, but the layers of humaity that Toyama gathered over his many journeys and with his team, so carefully laid into the city, point towards something living behind each door, a suggested interior to a city without rooms.

In fact these images, with their square aspect and visible edges become entrances of their own too. More so than any images in the book they feel like portals into a dream city, one where the whole is suggested by the few parts on display. In reality each of these images could be of a different city, each one's details being so distinct from the other, and perhaps they are—unpicking which detail was inspired by which of Toyama's trips is an impossible task. But then why would we? The pleasure here is in looking, not entering. We are outsiders in this city, but sometimes that affords us a perspective impossible from any other angle.

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More updates on the cities that will be broken down across the sections of the book will follow in the coming weeks, so make sure to follow the campiagn or pledge above to keep in touch.

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