Erected in 1975, Ponte City—a residential high-rise in Johannesburg—has loomed above the city’s skyline for decades. While initially intended as opulent accommodations for South Africa’s elite, it has since turned into a corrupt haven for prostitution, illicit drugs, and crime. In order to fully illustrate the rise and fall of this cursed landmark, South African photographer Mikhael Subotzky and British artist Patrick Waterhouse have teamed up to document the phenomenon in their series, Ponte City, on view at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh from December through April.
With shared interests in both art and social storytelling, Subotzky and Waterhouse began this project in 2007. At this time, promising plans to completely refurbish the building were abruptly halted while already underway. Years later, left in disarray and disrepair, Ponte City’s gutted rooms remain half-occupied, providing shelter to residual tenants and new squatters alike.
In order to accurately portray the current state of the high-rise, Subotzky and Waterhouse opted to focus on the desolate dwelling’s inhabitants in a five-year study. Through interviews and photographs, the pair has crafted a poignantly accurate portrait of Ponte City, paying particular attention to the contrast between its initial bright future and its somber current state.
Ponte City will be exhibited at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery from 6 December through 26 April 2015. Don’t miss this captivating series!