Honolulu, Hawaii: the name has a singsong quality. For American soldiers during World War II, it conjured up a paradise of grass-skirted tiki dancers under the palm trees. For many, it would be the last port of call before heading out to an uncertain fate in the Pacific theatre.
Shore Leave is the first photobook to capture this moment. Edited by writer and researcher Ryan Mungia, it provides a visual document of the city that served as the threshold between childhood and adulthood, peace and war, life and death.
What the soldiers found was not quite the tropical idyll they expected. Honolulu was a crowded modern city, and the military presence had turned it into a place of queues and cordoned-off beaches. Shore Leave shows soldiers in the throes of uncertainty and ambivlance – even as they line up for photos, shop in the markets or drink beer in the city's bars, there is the uneasy sense of what comes next.
The images in Shore Leave have been assembled from scrapbooks and photo albums owned by Jim Heimann, pop culture collector as well as Taschen America executive editor. Heimann has provided an introduction describing the milieu. In it he writes, “For the millions of sailors and soldiers who passed through Honolulu, shore leave had felt exotic and forbidden, but also banal and lonely.”
Since 2008, Ryan Mungia has been an editorial coordinator at art publisher Taschen. In 2012 he launched his own imprint, Boyo Press, which has previously released titles on marijuana and WW2-era venereal disease warning posters. Boyo’s books are all meticulously crafted, and *Shore Leave * is no exception, clothbound with a tipped-on cover image.