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The photography series bringing inequality back into the spotlight

Aerial footage by Johnny Miller speaks to some of the 'obvious' spatial divides SA.

A bird's eye view of Masiphumelele and Lake Michelle. Picture: Johnny Miller/Millefoto.

JOHANNESBURG - Cape Town-based photographer Johnny Miller is the most recent individual to fuel a long-standing debate on the deepening socioeconomic divide in South Africa with his photo series called Unequal Scenes.

The anthropology graduate from Seattle has received vast media coverage since sharing aerial view images of some of the city's districts in April.

The photographs and video footage expose the greenbelt between poor informal settlements like Masiphumelele and the wealthy gated communities surrounding the township.

Unequal Scenes - Masiphumelele and Lake Michelle

Unequal Stories - Strand/Nomzamo

Miller studied anthropology at the University of Cape Town between 2012 and 2014, focusing on the architecture of Apartheid - the physical characteristics of separateness.

Explaining the objective of his work, he says he embarked on the project with the hopes of provoking people out of complacency and spurring a dialogue to redress the unequal 'status quo'.

"Many people I've talked to have told me 'I never knew it looked like this', even if they lived within the same suburb. It is very difficult to see the scale of separation and inequality from the ground. So in this sense I'm bringing some awareness to an issue that is hiding in broad daylight."

He adds, "What I think is so powerful about aerial photography specifically is that it is very objective. In fact, all of the images I took in Cape Town were first researched with Google Earth, to see exactly what the land looked like from above. It's essentially a map. And people, I think, find that objectivity very powerful. It is very difficult to dismiss an aerial photo as somehow 'slanted' or 'loaded'. It is, simply, what it is."

Houtbay-Bay and Imzamo Yethu. Picture: Johnny Miller - Millefoto

Miller insists there is no easy resolve to the problem of but hopes the series offers a fresh perspective for some.

"This is a very thorny and nuanced issue, which has no easy answer. My job, if you want to call it that, has only been to provide a unique way of looking at the problem. The awareness, and the scale of the response, is entirely dictated by people's interest in the issue itself."

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