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The global trend toward urbanization is at once a crisis and an opportunity. Urbanization can drive economic progress and social mobility, and has the potential to limit the environmental impact of population growth. However, many rapidly growing cities have been unable to meet the basic human needs of huge numbers of people. Nearly one-sixth of the world’s population lives in urban slums: unplanned, informal settlements, often located in precarious environments, uniquely vulnerable to climate change, weather disasters and political instability. Here they improvise some kind of shelter and community for themselves. In this slideshow, we present two photographers whose work compels new understandings of these makeshift metropolises and the people who live there.
Noah Addis is a photographer based in Columbus, Ohio, whose ongoing series Future Cities documents unplanned urban development and squatter communities in cities including Mumbai, Lima, Dhaka, Cairo and São Paulo. Addis shows us the structures and infrastructures of informal communities in radically different parts of the globe, noting the many similarities between them. We see in particular the ways in which temporary structures accumulate to form neighborhoods. Addis frequently steps back to survey the landscape, and his images convey the scale of the settlements and how they integrate into their surroundings.