The Urban Millennium Project is a long-term documentary project looking into eight cities around the globe. The first four cities: New York, Seoul, São Paulo and Mumbai have been photographed and will be continued by Shanghai, Tokyo, Mexico-City and London.
Bas Losekoot was born in Amsterdam in 1979. He has a background in graphic design, photography and cinema. In 2001 he received his bachelor degree in photography at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in The Hague. Nowadays he is working as a portrait and documentary photographer developing long-term personal projects that mostly end up as photo-essays. In his early days he gained defined skills in studio lightning. The last decade he is focussing on pure street photography. Recently he found a way to combine these two disciplines in a unique way of story telling.
America’s largest and most populous city has captivated the minds of many people. It appeals to the imagination, creating space for possibilities and dreams. Contemporary photographers from all over the world have been capturing this metropolis. This so called ‘global power city’ belongs to the most populous urban agglomerations in the world. Well known for its great photographers it also intrigued Bas Losekoot to go and live there for a while. During a period of two years he observed and experienced New York’s city life. Inspired by Rem Koolhaas and his ‘culture of congestion’ the idea of the Urban Millennium Project evolved. Midtown Manhattan – an urban environment of brick, glass and steel, characterised by high-rise buildings and individual anonymity – became the starting point of a journey through various continents in the world, exploring the human condition in highly densed urban places.
The Urban Millennium Project
The world is undergoing the largest wave of urbanisation in history. At this moment in time more than half of the world’s population are living in towns and cities. Initiated in 2010, The Urban Millennium Project is a long-term documentary project looking into eight cities around the globe. The first four cities: New York, Seoul, São Paulo and Mumbai have been photographed and will be continued by Shanghai, Tokyo, Mexico-City and London. The project questions the city as a centre of human progress in a globalised society. It explores how the human psyche evolves in these densely populated environments of brick and steel. More questions arise when we start to wonder who these urban citizens are? In what way does the city influence its people and how does it reflect the relationship towards eachother and themselves? Which emotions are expressed, and what is personal space? Space seems precious in places of overpopulation, can you defend it, or are you defeated? The street becomes an environment of instinctive behavior. A space in which body language and glances/facial expressions create a battlefield in which being rich, smart, or attractive determines who wins the fight.
The cities are selected based on characteristics like population density, population growth, speed of urbanization, and size of economy. On location Bas explores the city and searches for particular places that reflect the city buzz. When looking for the most frequented spots, he generally ends up at stations, shopping malls, crossroads, and business districts. These positions in the city are often characterised by the working individual as the producer of societies’ so-called ‘progress’. Within this framework, the government uses urban development to enable the idea of ‘the promised city’.
As much as these places are physical junction points in the urban environment, they also act as mental junction points in the human psyche. The city becomes a site where emotions are under constant pressure. In the eyes of Bas Losekoot street-life is a continuous stream of split-second meetings. Capturing this detail in everyday life which everyone can relate to can be a challenge. Through experimenting with different types of lighting he accomplishes a heightened drama in a daily context. By doing so the chosen location becomes an imagined movie scene. The installation of little flashes at specific spots, enables him to freeze a moment or isolate a particular individual, increasing the surrealist atmosphere of its surroundings. His style is documentary orientated but with an own personal twist through the choice of adding artificial lighting to the scene. His images enable people to fantasise about what is happening on the scene, and make you wonder what the story is behind these city dwellers.
New York City and the Urban Millennium will be exhibited at the Photo Festival Naarden from the 18th of May till the 23th of June 2013. For more information visit: www.fotofestivalnaarden.nl
Text by Toha De Brant