The Manila Project
(Manila, Philippines)

Since 1975, the world's population has increased from 4 billion to 7 billion, with the majority of the surge occurring in developing countries. Today, it is estimated that there are more than 4 billion people living in urban centers in these countries; one quarter of them in slums and shanty towns. Many arrive with grand dreams but end up leading marginal lives, scratching out a living for subsistence wages, while their families are crowded into small rooms with no water, sanitation or electricity. Given these harsh realities, most envision slums as places of chaos and turmoil, overwhelmed by disease, crime and hopelessness.

My initial expectation was no different. To my surprise, what I found as I looked beyond the surface of these so called slums are tight knitted communities with genuine people who are ingenious and very hopeful for their future. The Manila Project highlights the lives of the people living among the dead in Navotas Cemetery and the people living and working in the Smokey Mountain dumpsite and the charcoal factories in Tondo. These are communities of people making the best of what they have, making a living scavenging in the garbage dump for recycled materials , often forced to feed their families with recycled garbage from the garbage bags of fast food restaurants.

Taking a glimpse into the daily lives of people living in these marginal communities, these photographs will hopefully bring a new understanding of the modern slum. The images will shine a light on the dark side of contemporary urbanization in developing countries, helping to show that these communities have rich untapped potential. The people of the slums should be recognized as a valuable resource, and should be further developed to achieve its full potential. Ill-coordinated donations and other traditional modes of response to urban poverty will not solve the “problem”. Instead, we should invest in infrastructure, education and skills development to more fully integrate this tremendous human potential into the global community.