Mikhael Subotzky’s and Patrick Waterhouse’s joint project documents the life and atmospheres of the Ponte City skyscraper in Johannesburg.
Created between 2008 and 2010, the photographers have generated an intimate and powerful portrait of Africa’s tallest apartment building, a circular 54-storey building that rises up to 173 metres. Built in 1975, Ponte City was once one of Johannesburg’s most fashionable buildings, but has since the end of the apartheid decayed and changed. Many of its windows are broken and the courtyard was until recently used as a large-scale garbage dump. Despite a high crime rate and failed renovation plans, Ponte City is still lived in. Its neighbourhood, its footprint and aspirations form the basis for Subotzky’s and Waterhouse’s long-term project. Over two years, they took photos of every window, apartment door and TV set in the building. Subsequently, they pieced together six hundred pictures in three different lightboxes, maintaining the exact order of the different storeys and apartment locations. A mosaic-like snapshot emerged, combining internal, external and imaginary perspectives on the structure and residents of this building that, like no other, represents the people and the history of South Africa.