Hillbrow is an inner city residential neighbourhood of Johannesburg, South Africa. It is known for its high levels of population density, unemployment, crime and poverty. In the 1970s it was an Apartheid – designated ‘whites only’ area but with the removal of the Group Areas Act, it gradually became a cosmopolitan area of mixed races.
Many whites left Hillbrow after poorly controlled and restricted political demonstrations in the late days of Apartheid, taking along with them their wealth and places of employment. Owners of the tower blocks abandoned their buildings in the 1990’s, leaving corrupt rogue landlords to retrieve what rents they could from disadvantaged tenants, then disappeared. Utilities were left unpaid, allowing the buildings to deteriorate and fall into disarray, accelerating the pace of urban decay.
Common media and suburban representation of Hillbrow is one of pervasive physical decline. Although the portrayal of Hillbrow as a neighbourhood characterized by widespread physical decay has some validity, there is also a good deal of mythology.
Although Hillbrow is one of the most dangerous parts of the city of Johannesburg where crime is prevalent, people within the community describe Hillbrow as a respectable place to live, as it has improved their way of life. Some residents coming from rural areas or townships see Hillbrow as a place of opportunity.
The title of the project was realized when I came across a building in Prospect Road, called ‘Panarama Place’. Which signified my intention of wanting to document a broad and layered inner urban Johannesburg, exploring the current and historical facets that make up this constantly changing city.