According to United Nations estimates there are more than a billion squatters living today—one out of every six people on earth. This number is expected to double to two billion by 2030. And by the middle of the century there will be three billion squatters.
Future Cities is a series of photographs of informal settlements and unplanned developments in the world’s cities. These communities take on many forms, but they share a common history. People, mostly migrants from rural areas, came to the city in search of work. They were in need of affordable housing that could not be found on the open market. So they claimed a small piece of unused land and built a home. Other residents followed, and the result was a new community within the city.
Although they face many challenges, these settlements are extremely creative and vibrant places and it would be a mistake to ignore them. Governments around the world have failed to take responsibility for this massive urban migration. Many of the world’s squatters exist in a legal vacuum, working outside of the official economy and living with only tenuous rights to the ground on which they have built their homes.
It is all too easy to look at the people who live under these difficult circumstances as victims. The reality is that the people living in informal communities throughout the world don’t need handouts or for people to tell them how to live. Instead, they have very specific needs. They need land tenure or a pathway to property ownership, which gives them a real stake in the new community they are building. They need access to credit and financial services, so that they can leverage their home ownership into capital that can be used to start businesses. They need education for their children along with basic utilities and city services, such as clean water, sanitation and electricity.
Many of these needs are not currently being met as cities struggle with ways to deal with a rapid influx of rural migrants. Yet strong evidence suggests that when these basic needs are met, these new urban settlements can become thriving communities.
My interest in photographing informal developments comes from the fact that these settlements grow almost organically to suit the needs of the people who live there. I am interested in looking at these communities to see what can be learned from them about urban planning and sustainable development. In addition, I hope to use the photographs from this project to raise awareness of the issues faced by the more than five million people each month who migrate from rural areas into the cities of the developing world. (artist statement)