Claustrophobic Photos Go Inside Manila’s Traffic Nightmare
The greater Manila metropolitan area has 22.9 million people, 2.5 million cars, and not nearly enough roads. It has, by some measures, the worst traffic in the world.
Getting anywhere is a nightmare. It’s hot. It’s cramped. It’s chaotic. Lawrence Sumulong throws you into the middle of it with his series Bottleneck. Seeing the insanity through a fisheye lens makes an unbearable commute downright claustrophobic. It gives you a visceral sense of what it’s like to spend two hours moving travel three miles.
Congestion swelled alongside an expanding middle class. Sales of new cars soared 91 percent between 2013 and 2015. The Metro Manila Development Authority says it must add 1800 miles of roads to the 3,000 it already has, and just this week the new president sought “emergency powers” to deal with the problem.
When Sumulong read last fall that Manila has the worst traffic in the world, it didn’t surprise him. He and other Filipinos have known that for decades. “Anyone who spends time in Manila has to contend with the horrible traffic in the city,” he says.
Inspired to document what it’s like getting around, Sumulong visited relatives in March and spent four days shooting with a Nikon and a 8mm fisheye lens. His gritty black and white photos capture crowds filling smoggy underpasses, packed rush-hour trains, and the iconic jeepneys packed with passengers. Using a wide-angle lens forced Sumulong to up close with his subjects, who often look surprised by the intrusion.
Bottleneck captures the craziness of Manila’s congestion and offers a glimpse of the misery people endure making even the briefest errands. Suddenly, your commute doesn’t look so bad.
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