philippe schneider – where we live matters

Emerging Photographer Fund – 2013 Shortlist


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EPF 2013 shortlist

Philippe Schneider

Where We Live Matters

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We often perceive slums as dark dens of poverty and despair, where juvenile delinquents, and squatters wander aimlessly amongst makeshift structures. We draw a clear distinction between the slum dwellers and ourselves: they are the “other”. In 2007, for the first time in history, the world’s population was more urban than rural. Of this urban swell, one out three one billion people around the world lives in a slum. Urban development now appears to be synonymous with the growth in urban poverty.”Where we live matters” is the story of the residents of the Paga Hill slum in Port Moresby, the capital city of Papua New Guinea, in which 45 percent of the population lives in slum neighborhoods. On 12 May 2012, one hundred police officers descended on the Paga Hill slum with the aim of driving out its residents. This forced eviction was carried out to make room for a residential development project overlooking Port Moresby bay. The attempted eviction constituted a gross violation of internationally recognized human rights, including the right to adequate housing. By the time the evictions were brought to a halt through the intervention of the PNG opposition Leader Dame Carol Kidu, twenty-one families stood homeless. The images presented in this project seek to put human faces on Paga Hill’s residents, telling their stories rather than leaving them relegated to statistics, stigma and prejudice. Our place of residence dictates whether or not we have access to basic services, whether or not we are employable; if we are even fully human in society’s eyes. This project aims to challenge the viewer’s perception of slum dwellers and to highlight the critical truth that, irrespective of a person’s place of residence, all people have the same basic needs, hopes and fears.



Philippe Schneider was born in France in May, 1967. After dabbling in student activism whilst completing a Bachelor of Arts and Communication at university, Philippe found his calling as a Humanitarian Aid Worker. He has been exposed to the spectrum of human existence whilst working in Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine and Darfur. Philippe believes that the commentary of human experience can ideally be shared through the medium of photography and strives to create work that informs the social conscience.


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Philippe Schneider



18 Responses to “philippe schneider – where we live matters”

  • Does everyone who lives in this slum carry but one expression, all the time? I think if you showed us a broader range of who the folks in your pictures are and the emotions, hopes and sorrow they feel, you would move us more and cause us to care more.

  • scottbennettphotoblog

    Thanks for sharing your vision of Paga Hill. I also agree with Frostfrog in the sense that it would be great to see more of a range of who the people are…maybe some local flavor/context to show the reality a bit more. You mention the perception of slums as “dark dens of poverty and despair,” but to be honest most of the photos here show a dark, almost despair-filled setting. It would be great to see some of the stories of the people´s lives to connect more on a human level. It is very sad about the forced evictions, as this makes the situation even more difficult for the people. I have photographed similar situations in Latin America, and it is truly sad to see so much social stigma placed on people just because they live in a particular neighborhood. I hope to document some of these same topics in Brazil (with the upcoming World Cup and Olympic Games) and am happy to be attending the DAH workshop in Rio in a few months. The sad thing about Brazil is that it is happening on a much larger scale, and mainly because of international sporting events. Thanks again for sharing your work.

  • “Does everyone who lives in this slum carry but one expression, all the time?”
    It seems that the fixed expressions of the people could be the results of the chosen technical approach: apparently, the photographer used a long exposure with some sort of light painting (with a flashlight?) on the subjects. So maybe they were asked not to move?

  • This is utterly pure dead brilliant.

  • scottbennettphotoblog

    So a question for Philippe would be: how did you light and create these photos? Looking back, I think I read a bit too much into to the artist statement. Perhaps if I had not read it at all, I would have looked at and perceived the photos differently. These photos definitely “put a face” on the people of Paga Hill. Also, the people seem quite comfortable with you being there, photographing them. Numbers 2, 6, 8, 13, and 16 are my favorites. They have an especially haunting quality.

  • Good point, abele. On second look, I think you may well be correct. When I looked at it the first time, it just kind of depressed me to see all those faces looking the same. I wanted, somewhere, to see at least a stronger sense of the hope referenced in the artist’s statement. But maybe the minimal amount of hope expressed simply by the act of holding a pose beyond the limit of smile duration for a photographer whose work you hope might somehow make a difference expresses all the hope the subjects felt.

  • burn is the best combination of images/meaning of any photo website on the Internet. I’ve spent uncountable nights viewing these images and pondering their meanings, and I appreciate the fact that we don’t have to wade through distracting advertisements to get to them.

    Mr. Schneider’s work is just great, focused, telling. What he’s shown us is what people around the world need to see and know about these things right now, something many expatriates know, but that many people shielded from these realities do not. Perhaps some “I overcame…” or, “We’re coping…” photos can come later, but these images get to the heart and soul of the matter, this devastating lack of concern for the homes and lives of the poor. These images are and should be moving and provocative, and these urban matters are the issue of our time, reflecting and determining the course of human being and how this has and will continue to affect us in cultural, social and political ways.

    But to Mr. Schneider and all the other young photographers who contribute to burn, I assert this: Your presentations would be much more powerful if you’d add captions. Though the images are strong and stand alone as powerful images, I find myself constantly wishing there was a bit more information about what I’m seeing.

  • “But to Mr. Schneider and all the other young photographers who contribute to burn, I assert this: Your presentations would be much more powerful if you’d add captions.”

    I’m with you on this, Chinadukes…

  • Hi, First of all let me tell you that I did not reply your message because I was not aware of being shortlisted for the EPF 2013. Only 2 days ago a friend of me told me the good news. So, let me give you some answer to your comments. Yes, you were right, I used painting with light technique to take those photographs. Also, I agree with the fact that I should have upload captions to give some information on the place and people I photographed. I have a piece that uses the photographs and recorded sounds (people speaking, sea waves, winds, dogs barking etc…) that I put together and I think it is more powerful that the photographs alone.
    I would like to thank you all for your valuable comments.

  • Philippe, the audio/stills piece sounds interesting, could you provide a link to it?

  • Hi Peter,

    Please see below a link to access the audio/stills piece. Let me know your opinion please.

  • Hi Phil,

    Thank you for sharing the link – much appreciated.

    I found the audio really helps build a deeper understanding / empathy of the place.

    Two main comments, both practical, and little do with the ‘show’ the static captions (that faded in and out) could do with being on for longer – I couldn’t read them fast enough! Had to go back and pause. The other, is I found the ‘typing in’ captions mid way through distracting – not to say you shouldn’t show them, but more the method of them ‘typing out’ on the screen made it hard to read. I think them fading in and out would be better.

    Was the audio pausing briefly towards the end intentional?

    All in all though, I liked it, good length, good pacing of photographs throughout and nice ‘ambient / background’ audio to go with it.


  • Thanks Peter for your constructive comments. We can always do better, and we should always trying to do better. I may go back to the piece and re-work it a bit, i have also done some interviews and I am wondering if i should create a longer piece, but knowing the attention span today I have to be careful. And yes, the audio pausing briefly towards the end was intentional. Once again thanks you very much for your feedback.


  • I would like to thank you very much David Alan Harvey, for giving me the opportunity to expose the struggle of people of Paga Hill. I recently received sad news from Paga Hill residents; the police went down the hill and destroyed every house, leaving the path to the big hotel development project. Of course the whole thing is full of corruption at almost of level. I am now based in Bangkok since a year, but I would like to go back there to find out what happen to the people of Paga. I am hoping to be able to take some weeks of my work next year and to find some money to go back there and to continue to tell the story of Paga Hill.

    Once again thanks you David for the exposure the people of Paga had on your website. I did not succeed to prevent the eviction to happen, but hopefully more and more people are aware of the growing issue of urban poor.


  • Philippe,

    It was a pleasure to watch, really enjoyed it. If you do add some interviews, or add more based your message to David, I’d love to see it.


  • Hi Peter, I am not sure I understand: “or add more based your message to David, I’d love to see it”. Can you please clarify what you mean?



  • Hi Philippe,

    Yes, of course, sorry for not being clearer.

    I mean when you go back to Paga Hill, and carry on telling the story as it has developed for the people of Paga after the eviction.


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