Metropolis is a work in progress
Years ago, when I was in Mumbai, I was struck by just how chaotic and crowded it is. I was wondering about how you could encapsulate all this energy, chaos, and hustle and bustle in a single photograph. So I spent the whole day in a building in a particularly hectic part of the Muslim quarter and took the same shot over and over again. For me, it was an experiment about how to capture these streets. I was carefully looking at who or what was either entering the image or leaving it. Were there vehicles? A rickshaw? Or was someone interesting standing completely still at just the right moment? All these elements had to be in the right place. This was what I was putting to the test. Back home, I developed the photos. There were a great many of them and just few that I thought I could use.
UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, ascertained in 2008 that more than half the world's population is now living in an urban area, a figure that is expected to rise to 70 percent by 2050. This is the reason why I embarked on Metropolis. I wanted to focus on this report and on these changes. So I decided to photograph the world's megacities - places with a population of more than ten million people - so as to document this process of urbanisation.
How can people live in a city that is so vast yet so incredibly crowded and hectic? What are the differences between these megacities and what do they have in common? That's what I want to reveal with these photographs: both the dynamic character of the city, and the individual humans, the urban travelers, who call this metropolis home.
Frits Gierstberg, Head of Exhibitions at the Nederlands Fotomuseum, on Metropolis:
"Within the vast panorama of photographic projects throughout the world that revolve around the metropolis, Martin Roemers' is the most meticulous in visualising the human experience in today's big city. Roemers' photographs are not only spectacular, they also provide us with a subtle image of the global village. Furthermore, they force us to reflect on popular ideas concerning globalisation, urbanisation and culture while simultaneously considering the potentials of the photographic medium."
The New Yorker, April 2, 2012:
"A crush of citizens who appear as ghostly bits of fabric swirling around sidewalk venders' displays like unharnessed energy."
The New York Times, July 28, 2013:
"Amid the chaos of Times Square, full of tourists and city buses and the blaring billboards, Mr. Roemers, glimpsed a still, stunning moment one April afternoon."
Metropolis was awarded the first prize in the Daily Life Stories category of the 2011 World Press Photo.
Photo: Dhaka, Bangladesh
Limited Edition Prints 49x62"/125x160 cm. and 21x27"/55x70 cm.