Future Cities (2010-2015)

According to United Nations estimates, there are more than a billion people living in slums and informal settlements--one out of every seven people on the planet. This number is expected to grow to three billion by the middle of the century. While informal communities may outwardly appear to be ruled by chaos and disorder, they are in fact very organized places that grow almost organically to suit the needs of the people who live in them.

For this series of photographs, I have traveled to cities throughout the world in which a significant percentage of the population lives in informal settlements.

This project, which is still in progress, is not intended to be a comprehensive documentation of life in these communities. Instead, I hope to take advantage of the inherent ambiguity of photographs to start a conversation. I am interested in photographing the formal beauty of these structures and settlements, and in communicating the creativity and resilience of the people who built them.

I first spent time in an informal community during an unrelated newspaper assignment in Lagos, Nigeria in 1999. At the time, I was unfamiliar with the systems and processes of informal development and rural-to-urban migration. I began researching the subject, and I started photographing these communities in 2010, shortly after I left my newspaper job. I have photographed communities in six cities and plan to photograph four more, including Lagos, by the end of 2022.