French photographer captures unused spaces and thwarted dreams in Millennium City
In Arthur Crestani’s innovative photography project Bad City Dreams, image and place come together to render farcical portraits of rapidly privatising Gurugram, throwing light on the glaring lack of urban spaces, and on the deep divide between its ambitious architectural projects and segregated society.Updated: Apr 12, 2018 15:01 IST
Few things could define the idea of unplanned urbanisation as well as Arthur Crestani’s photography project, Bad City Dreams, does. “I was always very curious about suburban spaces,” he says. Getting locals to pose against mobile backdrops composed of glossy real estate hoardings, Crestani captures an appalling class divide between the city’s grand architectural projects and a deeply isolated working class population.
It started with his visit to Delhi for an exchange program at Jawaharlal Nehru University in 2012. “I was 19 years old at that time, and getting to experience life in JNU, and Delhi was a striking experience for me... I would [also] cycle to Gurugram for archival projects and became interested in real estate ads at the same time,” he recalls. The dreamy world of comforts and the promise of living space in a city of the future, intrigued him no end.
“One summer, I came to Delhi and was looking for an apartment. We signed in to various property websites, and from there on, I started receiving advertising emails for upcoming projects in NCR. I was very interested, as both the visuals and the language were exuberant, and in stark contrast to what you experience in Delhi,” says the 27-year-old graduate in Urban Affairs from Sciences Po (Paris Institute of Political Studies). The photo series is exhibited at the Circulations Festival in Paris, France, till May 6.
Crestani’s subjects include migrant construction workers, security guards, villagers and other locals. The series is shot primarily at the city’s Golf Course Extension Road. In the beginning, the photographer would get people to pose as they stopped by, out of “curiosity”.
“I chose various locations in Gurugram that would help create a dialogue. I had the experience of meeting people at unused plots of land. In most cases, they are unwanted, undesired,” says Crestani. “Initially, I was interested in looking at the advertised images and the reality. Because my idea was to document unused spaces, I also wanted to document the people you meet in them — construction workers, villagers et cetera” he explains.
His subjects’ relationship with the backdrop piqued Crestani’s curiosity and drew him into the project further. “At first, they were reluctant, because they thought that the environment was not suitable to take pictures. But seeing the backdrop made them want to pose, as they found the images desirable and beautiful. Only once was I asked to go away,” he says, laughing.
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