In collaboration with the Netherlands Consulate, Metropolis is on view at the Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Mumbai City Museum between the 3rd and 24th of May 2016.
Mankind may originally have lived closer to nature, but today more than half of the world’s population lives in a city. The largest cities in the world are found in India and the Far East, with Tokyo — home to 38 million people — as the largest. The next biggest are New Delhi (25 million), Shanghai (23 million) and Mumbai (21 million). In all, 28 of the world’s cities meet the UN definition of a ‘megacity’: one with more than ten million inhabitants. Globally, one in eight of us now live in a megacity. Intrigued by this process of urbanisation, Martin Roemers travelled to no fewer than 22 megacities between 2007 and 2015 and across five continents to capture images of their life.
These new megacities each have their own character in which tightly knit trading communities, colourful rituals, and rural customs play a part. How, then, to create a photographic image of this new kind of city? These enormous agglomerations, with no clear core, chiefly defined by their infrastructure and packed with a huge and ever-moving population? Years ago in Mumbai, Martin Roemers first wondered how he might capture the experience of all that energy, chaos, movement, and activity in a single image. This idea would become the seed of Metropolis.
Roemers found his photographic form by choosing a high vantage point at one of the busiest locations in the city. This is the vantage point from which, again and again, he takes the same analogue photograph to define what combination of factors most effectively captures the dynamism of that particular city. He carefully weighs up which elements need to be included in the picture and those that should be omitted. Vehicles? A rickshaw? An interesting figure he’s spotted standing still for long enough and at just the right moment? From his viewpoint, Roemers waits patiently until everything falls into place, thus creating the photographs in Metropolis.
His focus on megacities helps him define his actual subject: the human condition in the modern city. In Metropolis he has succeeded in portraying this with poignant images of extraordinary precision.
– Anna Kruyswijk
‘One is almost surprised that the photographs in the series Metropolis have no sound or smell, so intense is the experience they convey of what ‘global urbanisation’ actually means to those who are living it […] Every image is multi-layered: the longer you look, and the larger the print, the more you see. As spectators we are outsiders; the photographer, too, gazes from above; and still it feels like we are in the thick of things. Together the images do not perhaps constitute a vision of this global phenomenon, but they do tell a story – or rather, very many stories – that let us see and feel what it is to live – and to survive – in the metropolis.’ — NRC Handelsblad
Martin Roemers (b.1962) studied photography at the Academy of Arts in Enschede, The Netherlands. He works on long-term projects including The Eyes of War, about individuals who were blinded as a result of World War II, and life in Megacities in Metropolis.
In 2009, his book Relics of the Cold War was published by Hatje Cantz. Roemers’ work has appeared in numerous publications including The New York Times, Newsweek and The New Yorker. His work has been exhibited widely and is held in public, private and corporate collections including the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and the Ford Foundation in New York. He has received awards and recognitions including two World Press Photo Awards in 2006 and 2011.