Born in Zeeland, the Netherlands, 1975 / Lives and works in Singapore and Rotterdam
Bas Princen photographs historical, geological, and cultural transformations within the urban landscape, particularly those occurring on the city’s margins. His images of Mokattam Ridge (Ancient Quarry) – a former sandstone quarry where some of the stones for the pyramids were mined – and Mokattam Ridge (or ‘Garbage City’) reveal both topographical and societal changes on the eastern edge of Cairo. A population of approximately 30,000 Zabbaleen people (Coptic Christians descended from migrant farmers) have now settled among, recycle, and make money from the mountains of rubbish piled around them – roughly half of all the rubbish in Cairo – with support from local government. Despite a lack of running water, sewage, and electricity, the Zabbaleen have created streets, shops, a church, and one of the world’s most efficient waste management systems at Mokattam, feeding food scraps to animals, repairing damaged or broken items, and repurposing, selling, or burning up to 90% of the items they collect. Princen’s photographs of this unusual metropolis capture the consequences of our consumption, while at the same time spotlighting how one community created a strategy that both ameliorates the problem, and enables their own sustainability.