Over eight years, photojournalist Adam Hinton spent time in the slums of Rio de Janeiro, Jakarta, Manila, Cape Town and Caracas, meeting residents who deal every day with poverty and prejudice.

 

Kampung Melayu, Jakarta

1940-01

Photo Credit : Adam Hilton

When I began this project in 2004, the majority of the world’s population was rural. Now most people live in cities and that is set to rise to 70% by 2050. Millions of people migrate from the countryside, looking for work and opportunities to improve their lives. It is in the ever-growing shanty towns surrounding the world’s developing cities that these people have to make their homes – often out of waste materials discarded by the wealthier parts of the city, and on whatever empty land they can find – under bridges, next to waste dumps or perched high on unstable land. Often they have to contend with the prejudice that their communities are full of criminals, and that they may be criminals themselves. I began looking at the lives of the people who have to live this way to show their side of the story – and to show that they simply hope for many of the things that we in the developed world take for granted.

When I visited Jakarta, I found a community under one of the city’s flyovers which had grown from a few shacks into a small village. Kampung Melayu has its own shop and two bars serving food and drink. The community is centered around the collection of plastic bottles for recycling.

1940-02

Photo Credit : Adam Hilton

1940-03

Photo Credit : Adam Hilton

1940-04

Photo Credit : Adam Hilton

Families living under the bridges place plywood sheets between the girders to form the floors of their home. In many cases a river runs directly beneath: one slip and a small child could be washed away. Speaking to some of these families you find many have lived this way for several years – too poor to step up from the very lowest rung on the wealth ladder and with little hope of ever being able to do so.

 

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Khayelitsha, Cape Town

Photo Credit : Adam Hilton

 One of the first things that becomes apparent on the drive from Cape Town’s airport to the city centre is that not much has changed for the majority of people since the end of apartheid. Mile after mile of shanty towns dominate the view, filled with those at the bottom of the old system who have been ignored by the new. Khayelitsha is one of the largest slums in southern Africa and seems to function as a city in its own right.
1940-06

Photo Credit : Adam Hilton

1940-7

Photo Credit : Adam Hilton

1940-8

Photo Credit : Adam Hilton

I had been told I was crazy to go into Khayelitsha during the day, let alone on a Saturday night, but once again I was made to feel very welcome and safe. True, the township has a big crime problem – but sometimes I wonder if that’s just another excuse for the authorities to compartmentalise the poor as a problem.

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Vista, Manila

1940-09

Photo Credit : Adam Hilton

Vista was built 20 years ago and promoted as the promised land for those who were cleared off ‘Smoky Mountain’ – a notorious rubbish dump where thousands lived and made a living recycling the city’s waste. As soon as the basic structure and utilities were in place, the authorities left Vista to rot. Despite the dilapidation, open sewers and pools of stagnant water, a community thrives, with a residents’ council which organises play days for the children, classes for adults and hassles the authorities to maintain some basic services.

Liselle Alba, aged 27, at home with three of her children in Vista. Her husband and four other children also share the room

Liselle Alba, aged 27, at home with three of her children in Vista. Her husband and four other children also share the room. Photo Credit : Adam Hilton

Children play near burning rubbish on the shore line of the 'Happyland' community

Children play near burning rubbish on the shore line of the ‘Happyland’ community. Photo Credit : Adam Hilton

A riverside community opposite the financial district of Makati City

A riverside community opposite the financial district of Makati City. Photo Credit : Adam Hilton

Gambling is only permitted in Manila at a wake. The government allows this as a way for the families of the deceased to raise money for the funeral. Families pay to embalm the bodies to keep them at the wake for as long as possible and so maximise income. The wakes are held in alleyways and the body can be out in the hot, sticky weather for two weeks or more.

 

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Tavares Bastos, Rio de Janeiro

1940-13

Photo Credit : Adam Hilton

The Tavaras Bastos community is perched high on the hillside of Rio’s Flamingo district and is one of the few favelas not to have a problem with drugs and gangs. This is because BOPE, the paramilitary wing of the local police force, has its HQ at the top end of the community and the soldiers regularly do combat training in the streets and alleys.

Alex (centre) and his sister Natasha (front), play while being washed

Alex (centre) and his sister Natasha (front), play while being washed. Photo Credit : Adam Hilton

Friends chat at football practice

Friends chat at football practice. Photo Credit : Adam Hilton

The old football pitch

The old football pitch. Photo Credit : Adam Hilton

Tavaras Bastos is a very close-knit community. Everyone is known to each other and the residents have developed a range of projects – much organised around children and football. I saw free art lessons for children and classes were held three times a week for ballet and martial arts. There was football practice for men and women of all ages every night.

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Dharavi, Mumbai

1940-17

Photo Credit : Adam Hilton

Once a small community outside Mumbai, Dharavi is now in the heart of a city that has grown to swallow it. What was an unwanted piece of swampy wasteland is now prime real estate and developers have wanted to get their teeth into it for decades. But because of its size and history they haven’t been able to. Dharavi has become the focus of the debate of how these communities should be developed and whose interests should come first – residents or developers.

85% of Mumbia's recycling passes through Dharavi

85% of Mumbia’s recycling passes through Dharavi. Photo Credit : Adam Hilton

A family home. One small room sleeps five

A family home. One small room sleeps five. Photo Credit : Adam Hilton

A wedding street party

A wedding street party. Photo Credit : Adam Hilton

You could live your whole live within Dharavi’s confines. It provides work, homes, schools and basic healthcare. It is a place with community spirit because residents’ homes are small, and people spend much of their time outside on the streets and alleyways, but you can’t escape the open sewers, human faeces and piles of rubbish

 

Petare, Caracas

1940-21

Photo Credit : Adam Hilton

When I visited Caracas in 2010, the country was governed by the United Socialist party under Hugo Chávez. For the people living in the slums and run-down state housing, the ‘Bolivarian Revolution’ had brought many benefits – much to the displeasure of large sections of the middle and upper classes. Much like in Brazil, the barrios are quite developed and the authorities have brought in basic amenities.

Maria Guadelupe at her home in Petare barrio. Outside she can see the remains neighbours' houses which collapsed in a landslide after heavy rains. Three hundred people lost their homes

Maria Guadelupe at her home in Petare barrio. Outside she can see the remains neighbours’ houses which collapsed in a landslide after heavy rains. Three hundred people lost their homes. Photo Credit : Adam Hilton

Andrea Carolina and her family were squatting in Torre David – a half-built office and mall development. They managed to get electricity but water had to be brought up by hand and there were no toilets

Andrea Carolina and her family were squatting in Torre David – a half-built office and mall development. They managed to get electricity but water had to be brought up by hand and there were no toilets. Photo Credit : Adam Hilton

Washing dries on the car park roof of Torre David, which was squatted by 300 families when I visited

Washing dries on the car park roof of Torre David, which was squatted by 300 families when I visited. Photo Credit : Adam Hilton

One of the most unusual communities I visited was in an abandoned mall and office block, called Torre David. My fixer wasn’t happy about visiting the complex as she said it was overrun by gangs. What we found was towers occupied by families, who had organised themselves into patrols and set up guards at entry points. Despite all the problems the residents were building something we all wish for: a vibrant, supportive community.

 

This feature originally appeared in The Guardian.

 

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