Aerial images of SA's apartheid legacy win international acclaim

Johnny Miller‚ who attracted worldwide attention for his stark aerial images portraying South Africa’s spatial inequality‚ was the only African photographer shortlisted in an international photography competition.


Miller submitted five images from his Unequal Scenes project to the D& AD Next Photographer Awards. The shots depict townships separated from areas of privilege‚ such as gated communities and golf courses‚ by nothing more than a wall or a strip of desolate land.

Writing for The Guardian‚ the Cape Town photographer said when he started flying a drone a year ago he had no idea of the impact his images would have. “Looking down from a height of several hundred metres‚ incredible scenes of inequality come into sharp focus.”

He said the contrast between the townships lining the N2 and central Cape Town was shocking. “Yet‚ as with every city in the world‚ it’s easy for residents to go about their daily lives with blinkers on‚ ignoring the disparities. Maybe it’s also a defence mechanism: the amount of help Cape Town needs to fix itself can sometimes feel overwhelming.

“As an anthropology student‚ I wanted to find a way of conveying this corrosive situation as objectively as possible – and so I managed to get hold of a drone. Photographs don’t lie‚ right? And yet this project has attracted some criticism from all sides: some seem to think I’m a propagandist for the ANC; others say I’m an apologist for apartheid.

“To me‚ this underlines what an intractable problem South Africa faces. For all the impressive community initiatives here‚ there is a desperate need for the government to tackle the deep-rooted spatial and infrastructural inequalities that persist‚ if the country is ever to reach a fairer‚ more stable footing.

“Of course‚ South Africa is not alone in this. In the past 12 months‚ I’ve also flown my drone over Nairobi and Mexico City‚ documenting similar scenes of unfairness. Nor is it just a developing world issue: after visiting Brazil in July‚ I plan to film in multiple locations across the United States. Let’s see what new perspectives it reveals about how people there live with inequality.”

The winner of the 2017 D& AD Next Photographer Awards‚ in which 21 entrants were shortlisted‚ was French photographer Antoine Bruy. He submitted five images from a series The White Man’s Hole‚ about the town of Coober Pedy in South Australia‚ which is considered to be the “opal capital of the world“.

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