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May 2008

More people now live in cities than in rural areas, and one-third of city dwellers, around a billion people, live in slums. In a new exhibition that will be starting at the Nobel Peace Centre in Oslo on 6 June 2008, Magnum photographer Jonas Bendiksen will present ‘The Places We Live’ - a multimedia installation depicting 20 homes in four different slum areas in Nairobi, Mumbai, Caracas and Jakarta. It runs until February 2009.

The show challenges viewers to reflect on what it means to live in a city in the 21st century. Bendiksen visited the slums, selected according to geographical spread and variation, and recorded life from the worst-off dwellers to slum chiefs using his Canon EOS 5D. The exhibition makes use of 18 of Canon’s new XEED SX7 projectors.

He told CPN: “I wanted to create more of an experience, an illusion of standing in one of these (slum) houses, rather than just looking at prints on the wall. It's an experiment, but i think it works.”

Speaking to CPN at the Visa pour l’Image festival in Perpignan, where his Mumbai work was exhibited, Bendiksen said that slum life is now more the norm than the exception. “I wanted to hack away at some of the stereotypes [of living in slums],” he said. “We think of these areas as the dark side of town where one shouldn’t go. But normal families live there – they pay rent, send their kids to school and try to make the best of it.”

© Jonas Bendiksen/Magnum Photos

New squatter settlements on a hillside in north Caracas in 2007.

The four slums portrayed in the exhibition are: Kibera, Nairobi, Kenya – it has about one million inhabitants and is considered the world’s largest and most crowded slum, with practically no public services. It is virtually a state unto itself.

Dharavi, Mumbai, India – this is Asia’s biggest slum, right by Mumbai’s financial centre. Its inhabitants include economic refugees and independent entrepreneurs of all kinds.

Barrios, Caracas, Venezuela – Caracas is a valley commercial centre with barrios, or slums, on the surrounding hills. The barrio dwellings are a bit more advanced than in the other slums in the exhibition, but the crime rate is far higher.

Kampongs, Jakarta, Indonesia – Jakarta has 1.5 million slum dwellers living in hundreds of communities scattered throughout the city. The myriad slum communities are located along rivers, near dumpsites and under bridges. East Asia has the fastest slum growth in the world.

© Jonas Bendiksen/Magnum Photos
© Jonas Bendiksen/Magnum Photos

Kids playing on top of water mains outside their neighbourhood of Karet Tensin in Jakarta in 2007.

Bendiksen’s work has been published in international magazines such as National Geographic magazine, GEO, Newsweek, Vanity Fair, The Independent on Sunday Review, The Sunday Times Magazine, Mother Jones and Le Monde II. A book, also called 'The Places We Live', is being published in seven languages to coincide with the exhibition in Oslo.

Canon is the technical partner of ‘The Places We Live’.