“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.’
Just over a century ago 13% of the world was urban. The United Nations predicts that 75 percent of the global population – close to six billion people – are expected to be concentrated in cities by the year 2050. The UN has also designated that 28 of these cities now meet their threshold of a ‘megacity’: defined as those cities with more than 10 million inhabitants.
Globally, one in eight of us now live in a megacity and by 2030, it is predicted that there will be forty-one of these megacities around the world. Fascinated by the sense of positive energy amidst the chaos in these centres of exploding population, Dutch photographer, Martin Roemers created his spectacular series, Metropolis, travelling to 22 megacities, across five continents observing the sense of city as spectacle.
Roemers captures not only the scale, pace and immediacy of this new urban reality, but also gives us a glimmer of insight into the massive infrastructures needed to keep these colossal hubs of humanity moving and producing. His imagery reveals complexities about how enormous populations function and thrive. Roemers conveys not only the energy of these megacities, he also reveals individuals living there through his atmospheric compositions taken with long exposure times.
Working painstakingly with an analogue large format camera, Roemers employs the gift of time and patience, careful studying each composition in order to illustrate human resilience and the ingenuity required to combat endlessly complex issues, such as the shrinking amount of space available per person to exist in, the vast economic needs of these large populations, not to mention vital access to clean water and sanitation, or how to keep transportation infrastructures up and running in these sprawling centres and ultimately, how to feed all of these millions of people and educate them. Roemers allows us to see these megacities as they are, complex and fragile metabolisms that support and sustain all walks of human life.
“His eye – and his camera’s long exposure time – engages with the dynamics of cities on the move, forcing us to literally slow down and dwell on the meaning of inhabiting the cities of the twenty-first century. The visual process has an intrinsic social value that transcends the art of photography. It allows us to get beneath the skin of the vast scale and intense speed of the new urban context, which is so difficult to grasp ‘on the ground.’ The static images freeze the complex processes of urban dynamism and become hyper – real.”
— Ricky Burdett, ‘Cities on the Move’ from Metropolis
‘Roemers created pictures that convey not only the mass and energy of megacities but also the humanity of the individuals living in them.’
–The New Yorker
Metropolis has been exhibited as a solo presentation at the Huis Marseille Museum in Amsterdam and received a World Press Award in 2011(Daily Life, First Prize, Stories) and First Prize in the 2015 Lens Culture Street Photography Awards.
- Martin Roemers - from the series Metropolis, Broad Street, Lagos Island, Lagos, Nigeria, 2015. Courtesy of East Wing Gallery.
- Martin Roemers - from the series Metropolis, Jubilee Street, Kumbharwada, Mumbai, India, 2007. Courtesy of East Wing Gallery.
- Martin Roemers - from the series Metropolis, Madan Street and Lenin Sarani, Chandni Chowk, Kolkata, India, 2008. Courtesy of East Wing Gallery.
- Martin Roemers - from the series Metropolis, New M.A. Jinnah Road, Saddar Town, Karachi, Pakistan, 2011. Courtesy of East Wing Gallery.
- Martin Roemers, from the Series Metropolis, Tejgaon, Dhaka, Bangladesh, 2011. Courtesy of East Wing Gallery.