For most of us, urban slums are little more than physical manifestations of poverty. But through the lens of Noah Addis’ camera, they reflect the creativity and resilience of communities fulfilling basic human needs. Addis’ “Future Cities” series is a highlight of the Modern Utopias, running at Main Line Art Center Sept. 12-Nov. 4. The exhibit—which also includes work from Marjan Moghaddam and Nicole Patrice Dul—is part of Panorama, a regional festival celebrating 21st-century image-based art.
A Drexel University graduate who grew up in Ohio, Addis has spent the past several years traveling to cities where a significant portion of the population calls one of these informal settlements home. And while they may look chaotic, he discovered that they’re quite organized, growing to suit the needs of their inhabitants.
Addis’ images challenge audiences to grapple with—and rethink—what may initially appear tragic. “It’s not about presenting what a sad, unfortunate situation these people are in, but the innovative and creative ways they’re creating places to live,” says Amie Potsic, Main Line Art Center’s executive director. “Addis’ work looks at how incredibly resourceful human beings are.”
The United Nations estimates that the number of people living in slums will grow to 3 billion by mid-century, and it’s believed that nearly a billion people are already living in these settlements. That’s one of every seven people worldwide.
Despite the hardships, Addis was surprised by how normal life seemed in many of the communities he visited. “Not to minimize the real problems of living under these conditions, but the people living in informal settlements are really just like everyone else,” he says. “You hear a lot about crime and violence, and these things are definitely a problem in some places I’ve photographed. But the vast majority of people are honest and hardworking.”
Potsic hopes Addis’ work prompts further awareness and support of the global community and the resilient inhabitants of these “future cities.”
Panorama 2015: Image-Based Art in the 21st Century
Sept. 12-Nov. 4
Main Line Art Center
746 Panmure Road, Haverford,
Friday, Sept. 18, 5:30-8:30 p.m.