In Sight

This photographer spent more than a decade traveling through Asia in the 1980’s: Here are some of his impressions

Edward Grazda’s new book, “Asia Calling: A Photographer’s Notebook 1980-1997,” (powerHouse Books, 2021) contains very few words. Rather, this is chiefly a book of Grazda’s impressions gleaned over a period of 17 years traveling through places like Hong Kong, Thailand, Burma, Vietnam, Laos, India, China, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Edward Grazda/Edward Grazda

Words are not always a necessary component in photobooks. Anyone can dive into a book of photographs and have at least a cursory understanding of what is in front of their eyes. That is part of what makes photography kind of magical. As with many things, it can be sophisticated and complex and require knowledge of its history and nuances to dive deeper into it. But not always.

Edward Grazda/Edward Grazda

“Asia Calling” can be “read” in these two ways as well. On the one hand, you can enjoy the ride as Grazda takes you through a series of sketches, or as he calls them, “notes” he made during the nearly 20 years it took to make the images in the book. On the other hand, Grazda’s notes can be viewed more thoroughly through a knowledge of the historical events that made them possible.

Edward Grazda/Edward Grazda

From ”Asia Calling: A Photographer's Notebook 1980-1997," published by powerHouse Books. (Edward Grazda)

Edward Grazda/Edward Grazda

Edward Grazda/Edward Grazda

Grazda touches on this at the beginning of the book:

Edward Grazda/Edward Grazda

“On January 15, 1980 I took a Pan Am flight #801 from JFK to Bangkok via Tokyo. Paul and Linda McCartney were in first class. In Tokyo we had to lay over due to weather. I photographed Paul and Linda on the tarmac, walking from the plane.

Edward Grazda/Edward Grazda

In the morning I turned on the hotel TV to watch the local news: footage of Paul and Linda being busted for pot at customs. I knew then that Asia would be an interesting place to photograph: and it was. These are some visual notes I made along the way.

Edward Grazda/Edward Grazda

This book ends in 1997. I continued to photograph Asia until 2004, but after 9/11 things changed.”

Edward Grazda/Edward Grazda

From “Asia Calling: A Photographer's Notebook 1980-1997,” published by powerHouse Books. (Edward Grazda)

Edward Grazda/Edward Grazda

Edward Grazda/Edward Grazda

From ”Asia Calling: A Photographer's Notebook 1980-1997,” published by powerHouse Books. (Edward Grazda)

Edward Grazda/Edward Grazda

Edward Grazda/Edward Grazda

From ”Asia Calling: A Photographer's Notebook 1980-1997," published by powerHouse Books. (Edward Grazda)

Edward Grazda/Edward Grazda

Edward Grazda/Edward Grazda

At first glance, this reads like a fun anecdote. But there is actually a lot to unpack in there. For example, there is a collision of cultures and values that signals the beginnings of a new kind of reality for Grazda. The photos that follow continue in a similar vein — they are not necessarily and in depth examination of any of the places Grazda went, but impressions from an outsider, learning as he goes along.

Edward Grazda/Edward Grazda

Grazda’s career took him all over the world. After studying at the Rhode Island School of Design, he spent the 1970s photographing in Latin America. And from the 1980s on, he spent a significant amount of time photographing in Afghanistan.

Edward Grazda/Edward Grazda

Grazda has published numerous books, including “Afghanistan Diary 1992-2000,” “Afghanistan 1980-1989” and “NY Masjid: The Mosques of New York.” His work has been published widely over the years, including in publications like “The New Yorker” and “Vanity Fair,” among others.

Edward Grazda/Edward Grazda

From ”Asia Calling: A Photographer's Notebook 1980-1997," published by powerHouse Books. (Edward Grazda)

Edward Grazda/Edward Grazda

Edward Grazda/Edward Grazda

From ”Asia Calling: A Photographer's Notebook 1980-1997,” published by powerHouse Books. (Edward Grazda)

Edward Grazda/Edward Grazda

Edward Grazda/Edward Grazda

From ”Asia Calling: A Photographer's Notebook 1980-1997,” published by powerHouse Books. (Edward Grazda)

Edward Grazda/Edward Grazda

Edward Grazda/Edward Grazda

In Sight is The Washington Post’s photography blog for visual narrative. This platform showcases compelling and diverse imagery from staff members and freelance photographers, news agencies and archives. If you are interested in submitting a story to In Sight, please complete this form.

Edward Grazda/Edward Grazda

From ”Asia Calling: A Photographer's Notebook 1980-1997,” published by powerHouse Books. (Edward Grazda)

Edward Grazda/Edward Grazda

Edward Grazda/Edward Grazda

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