The Height of Inequality: Drone photographer’s images offer a bird’s-eye view of inequality in cities around the globe

Inequality is everywhere, but one feature of the human condition is that after a while we tend to stop seeing it. All the shocks and breakdowns of first contact quickly become normal and we move on with our lives, until something challenges the status quo.

or activists trying to make a difference, that’s a real problem. How people look at the world’s inequality with fresh eyes; see them as solvable problems, rather than just facts of life? For American photographer and activist Johnny Miller, a random photo he took in 2016 surprised him with just how effective it was.

“I have lived in South Africa for 12 years now, and in 2016 I started to worry about the level of inequality I might see around me. I’ve always been bothered that post-Apartheid cleavage architecture is only blindly accepted there.

“One day I received a drone, a fairly new technology, and I wanted to see if I could capture an image that illustrates the contrast between the haves and the nos in society. or not. The first photo I took of Lake Michelle and Masiphumelele in Cape Town, went viral. I posted it, went to bed and woke up to find it posted online. That basically changed my life.”


A street market divides the poor from the richer in Mexico City. Photo: Johnny Miller


The desert sands meet the city of Swakopmund in Namibia. Photo: Johnny Miller

Clear illustrations Social inequality issues in Cape Town from a new and shocking perspective. At a glance, anyone can see the problems in that society – the rich live on the other side. of a narrow wetland; the poor in a town on the other hand.

The photo ignited Miller’s enthusiasm for documenting inequality, which led him to start the project Unequal Scenes. Now, he travels the world to find photographic locations that illustrate the often hidden boundaries in society.

“Through that process, I learned a lot about inequality,” says Miller. “I originally moved to Cape Town to get a master’s degree in anthropology, so the idea that the world is organized into structures that aren’t always visible from the ground is really exciting. to me. My dad is a cartographer and so I see things naturally from the air.

“Drone technology comes at the right time to help solve this problem. People were really interested in the piece and it seemed to have lasting appeal.”

Miller will be in Dublin next week to present an exhibition of images taken from Unequal Scenes, and to present as part of Creative Intelligence Week at Trinity College Dublin.


Homeless people camp near a highway during rush hour in Oakland, California. Photo: Johnny Miller


A slum lies between train tracks in downtown Sao Paolo, Brazil. Photo: Johnny Miller

From March 12 to 16, Creative Intelligence Week will explore how brains and creativity collide to build new ideas in the areas of social development, technology, entrepreneurship, brain and physical health, through talks and exhibitions at the university’s Naughton Institute.

An important part of Miller’s creative work is that it provides perspectives on the world that people don’t see every day. The images of the arrest are taken from the air and often tell a story that would otherwise require a thousand words to do justice.

“In any form of activity, you need some sort of tool to get people to the point where they make a decision. For example, it’s important that this project is personalized, I have to come right in and say, ‘This is my vision of inequality and I think we should reduce inequality around the world.’ The impact of the project is huge. ”

In May 2019, one of Miller’s images was used on the cover of Time magazine to illustrate a story about inequality in South Africa, and his work has become firmly established. Probably since he started it. At his website dedicated to the series, unequalscenes.comhe has posted images and articles from more than 28 locations around the world, including Peru, India, Mexico, New York City, South Africa, Tanzania and Namibia.

“Some people have asked me implicitly, ‘The picture is beautiful, but what are you really doing to reduce inequality?’ As if they were asking any photojournalist in a war zone, what are they doing to prevent a war? It’s a fundamental question, because I think this series of photos has had a huge impact in terms of communicating the scale of the problems out there and getting people to see them in a new light. They have sparked a lot of conversations in many different groups of people. “

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Fry Electronics Team

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