Philippe Schneider

Where we live matters

Philippe Schneider

I was born in France in 1967. After dabbling in student activism, I found my calling as a Humanitarian Aid Worker. I have been exposed to the spectrum of human existence whilst working in Middle Eat and Africa. I believe that the commentary of human experience can ideally be shared through the medium of photography and strives to create work that informs the social conscience.

We often perceive slums as dark dens of poverty and despair, where criminals, juvenile delinquents, and squatters wander aimlessly amongst makeshift structures. This is how slums across the world have long been portrayed in popular discourse. In 2007, for the first time in history, the earth’s population was more urban than rural. One out three city dwellers – one billion people around the world – lives in a slum. Urban development now appears to be synonymous with a concurrent growth in urban poverty. “Where we live matters” is the story of the residents of the Paga Hill slum in Port Moresby, the capital city of the southwestern Pacific nation of Papua New Guinea, in which 45 percent of the population lives in slum neighborhoods.

On 12 May 2012, some one hundred police officers armed with assault rifles and machetes descended on the Paga Hill slum with the aim of driving out its residents and demolishing one of Port Moresby’s oldest neighborhoods. This forced eviction was being carried out to make room for a residential development project overlooking Port Moresby bay. This attempted eviction, initiated by a Development Company, constituted a gross violation of internationally recognized human rights, including the right to adequate housing. Before the eviction was eventually halted the police forces had already nevertheless managed to demolish Paga Hill 21 homes. Slums are often perceived as dark, frightening places, the corners of our cities that we often choose not to see. Paga Hill is no different.

The images presented in this project put human faces on Paga Hill’s residents, telling their personal stories rather than leaving them relegated to statistics, stigma and prejudice. This project aims to challenge the viewer’s perception of slum dwellers and to highlight the critical truth that, irrespective of a person’s place of residence, all people have the same basic needs, hopes and fears.

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