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Johnny Miller - What often remains hidden on the ground
Reading time: 12 minutes - March 21, 2024 - by Christina Thomas

Schnappschuss 68: What often remains hidden on the ground

From the new Schnappschuss: "Behind the Scenes"

Most people know the city they live in like the back of their hand. At least that's what they would say if they were asked. But how well do we really know our immediate surroundings? Especially off the beaten track and beyond the facades of buildings. Do we know who the people are who live just a few kilometers away from us? Do we know them? What do we know about their stories?

Photo: Johnny Miller. The first picture of the Unequal Scenes series

In his project Unequal Scenes, photographer Johnny Miller, who lives in South Africa and the USA, reveals sides of cities that remain hidden to many people. He does this primarily through a new perspective that shows how close two worlds are that could hardly be more different.

The story of Unequal Scenes began in 2016, when Johnny, inspired by the beauty of his adopted home of South Africa, decided to explore the surroundings with his new drone. The drone gave him a completely new perspective: the limited field of vision from the ground expanded. Walls, fences, wide roads, moors and rivers were no longer an obstacle thanks to the drone, giving him not only an unprecedented overview, but also a view of the world beyond the known paths for the first time. He had never seen his adopted home like this before.

He published one of the resulting photos in a post on his Facebook page. The post went viral: it was seen, commented on and shared by several thousand people that very night. Because what people saw made them think. The picture showed part of Masiphumelele, a township located around 20 km south of Cape Town. It is estimated that around 38,000 people live there, most of them in tin shacks without running water and in a very small space. Due to the lack of space, some of the huts are also built in the swampy marshland on the edge of the township, which regularly flood when it rains. Just 200 meters away, on the other side of the moor, the picture is completely different: Here, secured by an electric fence and guardhouse, lies Lake Michelle. A popular, idyllic vacation destination where one of the spacious properties costs several million South African rand.

With this view behind the fence, the drone provides a new, more complete view of reality. Johnny Miller's images and videos invite us to take a closer look and thus to peek behind the shiny and glamorous facade of many a place.

Photo: Johnny Miller. The beach in Nungwi on Zanzibar

Luxurious beach hotels in Nungwi, Zanzibar, with accommodation prices of 7,000 dollars per night, help many a rich sucker to enjoy an unforgettable vacation in a paradise with crystal-clear water and white sandy beaches, but at the same time place an enormous burden on their immediate surroundings and the local population due to their high electricity and water consumption. According to studies, tourists here consume 16 times the amount of water of the local population every day. The situation is similar on the popular island of Bali, where the tourism industry accounts for around 65% of total water consumption.

Rich and poor. Right next to each other and yet so far apart. These contrasts are clearly visible in Mumbai, where skyscrapers, built at a cost of several million dollars, are located in the immediate vicinity of huge slums whose inhabitants seek shelter from the monsoon rains with the help of blue tarpaulins. A similar picture can be seen in Brazil, where in many cities, such as Rio de Janeiro, favelas are dominated by new, chic high-rises and office buildings.

Photo: Johnny Miller. Real estate boom in Manila, luxury condos in BGC are right across the street from the simple homes of people living in Makati
Photo: Johnny Miller. Pondok, in the south of Jakarta

Such clear, glaring inequalities are often illustrated by the physical infrastructure on location, as Miller's images impressively show. For example, multi-lane roads repeatedly serve as clear dividing lines between modest huts and modern skyscrapers, e.g. in the Philippine capital Manila, which is home to around 1.7 million people.

In the images of the Indonesian capital Jakarta, too, rivers and green strips act as dividing lines between the unequal residential areas of this city characterized by contrasts.

Photo: Johnny Miller. The Cantagalo favela towers over one of the most expensive residential areas in Rio de Janeiro

However, with his pictures and videos, Johnny Miller not only wants to highlight the inequality of our world, but above all to create a connection between people who live in close proximity to each other - and yet never meet.

He travels the world to tell the story of those who are often overlooked. His pictures encourage us not to close our eyes, to take a closer look and to adopt different perspectives. They are images that call on us to act and work together to make the world a little fairer.

more info and more works by the artist:

Johnny Miller
Instagram: @johnny_miller_photography
Unequal Scenes:

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