Aerial Photos Capture Just How Differently The Rich And Poor Live

Photographer Johnny Miller's "Unequal Scenes" shows wealth discrepancy from above.

28/06/2016 12:18 AM AEST | Updated 28/06/2016 12:18 AM AEST
Johnny Miller/Rex Shutterstock
Papwa Sewgolum Golf Course is located along the lush green slopes of the Umgeni River in Durban. Almost unbelievably, a sprawling informal settlement exists just meters from the tee for Hole 6. A low-slung concrete fence separates the tin shacks from the carefully manicured fairways.

"Discrepancies in how people live are sometimes hard to see from the ground," photographer Johnny Miller writes online. "The beauty of being able to fly is to see things from a new perspective -- to see things as they really are."

Miller's "Unequal Scenes" project provides that new perspective in a series of stark aerial photos that capture just how differently the rich and poor live. His series focuses on neighborhoods in South Africa, a country that experienced nearly five decades of institutionalized segregation during apartheid. Often split into two distinct fields, his photos show a bird's eye view of shacks cozied up to golf courses and sprawling housing developments situated on the edges of crowded shanty towns. 

"During apartheid, segregation of urban spaces was instituted as policy," Miller explains in a statement accompanying his series. "Roads, rivers, 'buffer zones' of empty land, and other barriers were constructed and modified to keep people separate. 22 [sic] years after the end of apartheid, many of these barriers, and the inequalities they have engendered, still exist. Oftentimes, communities of extreme wealth and privilege will exist just meters from squalid conditions and shack dwellings."

Miller insists that the goal of "Unequal Scenes" is to convey the realities of wealth discrepancies "as objectively as possible." By shooting locations like Kya Sands, Mooifontein Cemetery, Lake Michelle and Vukuzenzele from several hundreds of meters above, he creates images that show rather than tell the story of inequality in cities like Cape Town, Johannesburg and beyond. 

"I hope to provoke a dialogue," Miller concludes, "which can begin to address the issues of inequality and disenfranchisement in a constructive and peaceful way."

  • Johnny Miller/Rex Shutterstock
    Sandton in Southern Africa. The Johannesburg Stock Exchange is located there, as well as headquarters for most financial firms in SA. Just across the highway (literally, across the road) is the township of Alexandra - a crime-infested urban warren of shacks, hostels (basically large communal dwellings once used for mine workers), and home to hundreds of thousands of black Africans. Neighbouring Sandton is very white.
  • Johnny Miller/Rex Shutterstock
    Vusimuzi / Mooifontein Cemetery. Vusimuzi settlement lies between a fetid stream, a huge cemetery, and two slightly wealthier suburbs. There are over 30,000 people living in approximately 8,500 shacks. High above the shacks, high-tension power lines carry electricity to other areas of Johannesburg, but not Vusimuzi.
  • Johnny Miller/Rex Shutterstock
    Nomzamo/Lwandle is a township bordered by the communities of Strand and Somerset West, about 40km east of Cape Town. Originally it was conceived of as an area to house "single male workers" during the apartheid years, in a type of accommodation known as hostels. It is now a sizable suburb with a population of over 60,000 people, In 2014 the City of Cape Town forcibly removed many people from their shacks along the N2 highway in a violent confrontation, but then soon changed course, and rebuilt some of the shacks on another plot of land. There is a clear land buffer (supplemented with fencing) separating the wealthier housing of Strand from Nomzamo/Lwandle. Many of the rebuilt shacks exist within this land buffer.
  • Johnny Miller/Rex Shutterstock
    Kya Sands / Bloubosrand. Among leafy trees, shady street corners and swimming pools, you find the middle-class suburb of Bloubosrand. A quick search on Property24 shows that many houses are worth over 1 million rand. Across the street, tin shacks with car tires on their roof extend into the distance. If you look even closer, the main thoroughfares in Kya Sands are actually drainages for the black, filthy water emanating from the nearby creek.
  • Johnny Miller/Rex Shutterstock
    Masiphumelele / Lake Michelle. Picturesque suburbs look out onto the glistening waters of Lake Michelle, 20km from Cape Town's city centre. Separated by wetlands, a guard house and an electrified fence, the 38,000 inhabitants of the neighbouring tin shacks of Masiphumelele are a world away. There is no police station, only one small day clinic, and it's estimated that up to 35% of the population is infected with HIV or TB.
  • Johnny Miller/Rex Shutterstock
    Hout Bay / Imizamo Yethu. Hout Bay is a picturesque valley about 15km south of Cape Town.
  • Johnny Miller/Rex Shutterstock
    Vukuzenzele / Sweet Home. Sweet Home in Cape Town was primarily a dumping ground for builder's rubble like bricks, which are still being recycled today near the south end of the settlement. Services and conditions are poor. Vukuzenzele, just to the north, was developed in collaboration with a fund to provide affordable housing to South Africans. The visual difference between the two is stark.
  • Johnny Miller/Rex Shutterstock
    Sandton is the economic capital of Southern Africa.
  • Johnny Miller/Rex Shutterstock
    Manenberg / Phola Park, Cape Town.
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