SLUMSCAPES

As the United Nations prepares a new 20-year plan to cope with the challenges of booming urbanization, residents of the world's five biggest slums are battling to carve out a place in the cities of the future. 

Home to more than 900 million people worldwide - or nearly one in every seven people - the UN says slums are emerging spontaneously as a "dominant and distinct type of settlement" in the 21st century.

Slumscapes is the name of a multimedia feature story I shot for the Thomson Reuters Foundation (TRF) in collaboration with Code For Africa (C4A). I used a mixture of photography, video, drone, and 360 imagery to shoot the series, with the final editing and maps created by TRF and C4A. It focuses on the world's largest slums, including Cape Town, Nairobi, Mumbai, and Mexico City. 

The link to the story on Thomson Reuters Foundation's website is here

Nairobi

Nairobi's vast Kibera settlement - coming from the Nubian for forest or jungle - is described as Africa's largest slum and comprises more than a dozen villages from Soweto East to Kianda. 

A mix of ethnic groups make their home there although nobody knows exact numbers. According to the last Kenyan census, the population was 170,070 in 2009 but other sources, including the UN, estimate the settlement is now home to anywhere between 400,000 and one million people.

Thomson Reuters Foundation, Code For Africa, MicroDrone Africa, and Millefoto collaborated to create a multimedia story on a massive road project that is under construction near Kibera. Soon, the road will plow through the middle of the slum, destroying hundreds of houses, and tens of schools, clinics, and businesses. The final story incorporates a unique interactive map, as well as video, photo, 360, and drone. 

Interactive Map

I conceived and helped produced the idea of an interactive map that would allow viewers to transport themselves to various points in Kibera.  Through 360 video, stills, and aerials, readers can witness the development of a new road that will alter the lives of residents forever. 

Video

I shot video, both aerials and on the ground, in support of the reportage from Kibera, Nairobi. Thanks to MicroDrone Africa for the incredible support filming in a very challenging environment. 

Mumbai

Mumbai is a perfect example of a developing city in the global South which is booming. The city is expected to grow from 16 million inhabitants to over 30 million by 2030. That means the city will face a huge problem: Where will the population live? Like Manhattan in New York City, Mumbai has limited land. The peninsula is surrounded by sea and land and is extremely expensive. Unlike Manhattan, there is no surrounding land to bridge to. Especially during the monsoon season, storms and rain can cut off the peninsula from the mainland, with the exception of a narrow passage to the north. 

Mumbai's success is also its dilemma. The booming economy has, to a greater exigent, developed because of the informal economy and the underclass of workers who serve the city. But when land is so over-priced, the informal housing areas are usually torn down, and the poor are evicted. These evictions are not merely from one site to another, but more often far outside of he city. Mumbai faces questions that all cities will face sooner or later. The question of the right for poor people to live in cities, who the city is for, and ho can relive in it together. (Lantz & Habib, 2008)

Cape Town

Jean Comaroff, a Harvard professor of anthropology and African Studies, said despite "valiant efforts" from city authorities and activists in recent years, Cape Town itself still offers little room for its slum residents beyond "servitude" - work as domestics or in the service industries. 

"It is poised on a knife edge and the differences between the beauty of the city itself and what you see on the Cape flats is the starkest you will ever see in the world." she said. 

In Cape Town, city authorities are not only struggling with providing housing and sanitation for a burgeoning population but face the task of trying to reverse the apartheid era engineering that built the spatial segregations that still exist today. (Paola Totaro, Thomson Reuters Foundation)

This interactive map was developed by Code for South Africa, based in Cape Town. 

Meet Siphesile Mbango, whose friend went to the toilet alone - and never came back again. All drone and ground videography shot by myself. 

Mexico City

Jose Castillo, an urban planner and architect in Mexico City, says that Ciudad Neza, home to 1.2 million people, should serve as a model for other blighted urban areas and slums. 

Short for Nezahualcóyotl, Neza sits on the bed of Lake Texcoco which was slowly drained in a bid to combat devastating flooding over a century and more. 

The settlement really grew in a burst of urban migration in the mid-20th century when new arrivals to Neza set up shacks of wood and cardboard, living without electricity, a sewage system or running water, schools or paved roads. (Paola Totaro, Thomson Reuters Foundation)

Mexico City was one of the most challenging environments to work in, as the crime, fear, and overwhelming size of the city made "getting to know" the area difficult. Thanks for the help I had from my friends Alejandra and Daniela Esponda, Anna Yukhananov, helicopter pilot Oscar Ruiz (whose work I borrowed heavily from) and TRF for all their support.