Pictura Gallery

Kai Caemmerer + Noah Addis

Kai Caemmerer | Unborn Cities

Noah Addis | Future Cities

Saturated in the strange blue light of a new world, Kai Caemmerer’s Unborn Cities depict recent housing developments in China, settlements whose entire infrastructures are built to near completion before people come to live there. Human needs are anticipated, but the humans have yet to arrive. In his earlier project Sites, Caemmerer crafts images of unidentifiable urban spaces, places void of human presence where the buildings seem to rule. His photographs afford the imagination a rare crystal vision of the urban modern landscape without us.

A warm and earthy haze hovers over the informal urban settlements catalogued in Noah Addis’s Future Cities. These self-built communities spring up around the shifting, growing populations who move into the cities in search of opportunity and a place to live. Addis focuses his work on the creativity and resilience of the populations who make their homes with very limited resources.

For some, these projects can express two distinct channels of anxiety. While the intent of the work is not necessarily to depict these communities in a negative light, we can’t help but see our own worries about the future. Will humans live in an isolated void, in a world governed by technology? Or, as populations grow, will we live in increasingly crowded and seemingly chaotic spaces? Caemmerer and Addis use infrastructure as a way to talk about community and the current and future needs of human society. Although the works raise darker questions about the future, Unborn Cities and Future Cities also explore possibilities for sustainable societies.

Kai M. Caemmerer (b.1988) lives and works in Chicago, IL. His current work explores aspects of urban space and the perpetual development of cities. He received his BA in photography from Western Washington University and will complete his MFA in photography from Columbia College Chicago in Spring of 2016. He has received recognition and support from the Stuart R. Abelson Foundation, the People’s Government of Shangrao City, The Luminarts Foundation, and the Dave Bown Projects grant.

Unborn Cities | Artist Statement

This work seeks to raise questions about how the structures and architectural forms in our cities obscure nature and reflect positions of dominion and authority. I photograph these landscapes of steel and concrete in a way that recalls the feelings of immensity and overwhelming power that one would encounter in the sublime landscape paintings of the Romantic era – paintings of ominous scenes in which the forces of nature impose their dominance over the landscape and its people.

The work locates the perpetual growth of the metropolis as a source of cultural anxiety. Where else is the ever-accelerating rush into the future more apparent than in the development and history of urban space? Unwavering structures of poured concrete and steel continuously replace one another, boldly announcing their tenure with an increased footprint or vertical gain, only to become outmoded by the technological advancements of the near future. I am trying to locate this feeling or sense of anxiety within the architecture and shifting space of our cities.

Reducing context and markers of geographical location, the images address the idea of the built environment without being clearly tied to a definitive place or era. By dislocating these photographs from a recognizable reality, I hope to make images that show the city not as it is, but rather as it seems, or as it might be come.

Noah Addis is a photographer based in Philadelphia. He began his career as a staff photojournalist for the Star-Ledger, a large daily newspaper in Newark, New Jersey.

He was awarded the New Jersey Photographer of the Year award three times and was the runner-up in the portfolio category of the National Press Photographer’s Association Best of Photojournalism contest.

Addis’ photographs have been published in major publications including The New York Times, Time, Newsweek,People, US News & World Report, The Financial Times, and Life’s Year in Pictures. His work has been featured in digital publications including Conscientious, Places Design Observer, Fraction Magazine, Aint-Bad, Fotografia Magazine,Vantage, Lens Culture and Flak Photo. Addis was recently was selected as one of Lens Culture’s Emerging Talents.

Future Cities | Artist Statement

According to United Nations estimates, there are nearly a billion people living in slums and informal settlements–one out of every seven people on the planet. This number is expected to grow to three billion by the middle of the century. While informal communities may outwardly appear to be ruled by chaos and disorder, they are in fact very organized places that grow almost organically to suit the needs of the people who live in them.

For this series of photographs, I have traveled to cities throughout the world in which a significant percentage of the population lives in informal settlements. I have focused on the landscape and architecture of these homes and communities in order to show the creativity and resilience of the people who created them. Housing is a basic human need that we all share. I am interested in exploring the similarities and differences among self-built homes and settlements across the globe.

I have found informal communities to be extremely creative and vibrant places in which the architecture reflects the character of the community. The efficiency and the adaptive nature of these self-built communities makes them worthy of attention in order to see what can be learned from them about urban planning and sustainable development.

The world’s squatters exist in a legal vacuum, working outside of the official economy and living with only tenuous rights to the ground on which they have built their homes. City governments often choose to demolish these settlements in an attempt to impose order on the urban landscape. This approach frequently contributes to a cycle of poverty and decay. Residents have often told me they are less likely to invest in improving their homes and businesses if they are in constant fear of eviction.

People living in informal settlements have very specific needs, including a pathway to property ownership, access to credit and financial services, education for their children and basic services, such as clean water, sanitation and electricity. Many of these needs are not currently being met as cities struggle with ways to deal with a rapid influx of rural migrants. Yet strong evidence suggests that when these basic needs are met, these new urban settlements can grow into thriving communities.

Exhibition Archives