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Bottleneck

A homeless boy sleeps soundly amidst the cacophony.

A homeless boy sleeps soundly amidst the cacophony.

Bottleneck, photo essay by Lawrence Sumulong


Looking to an everyday occurrence to express aspects of the human condition, BOTTLENECK documents the interminable commute of Filipinos in the capital city, which CNN Philippines recently reported as having the worst traffic on earth.

Seemingly endless, Metro Manila’s urban sprawl expands deliriously and its dated infrastructure choke from overpopulation and pollution. This city is the ouroboros, the archetypal serpent encircling itself to devour its own tail.

Squatters set up an illegal toll system along a congested major highway in Manila, the Philippines for commuters looking for a shortcut through their ghetto. They charge 5 pesos per car. Pictured is one of the squatters showing me how much he has made during the early hours of the day

Squatters set up an illegal toll system along a congested major highway in Manila, the Philippines for commuters looking for a shortcut through their ghetto. They charge 5 pesos per car. Pictured is one of the squatters showing me how much he has made during the early hours of the day

Pollution fills an underpass where the traffic is at a standstill.

Pollution fills an underpass where the traffic is at a standstill.

Jeepney drivers mill about, count their earnings, and smoke cigarettes while catcalling potential customers.

Jeepney drivers mill about, count their earnings, and smoke cigarettes while catcalling potential customers.

A light rail train in Manila, the Philippines packed to the gills.

A light rail train in Manila, the Philippines packed to the gills.

Rush hour inside a packed and stalled light rail train in Manila, the Philippines

Rush hour inside a packed and stalled light rail train in Manila, the Philippines

Men struggle to fit inside a train carriage on one of the older and more inexpensive railways in Manila, the Philippines.

Men struggle to fit inside a train carriage on one of the older and more inexpensive railways in Manila, the Philippines.

The tailspin of routinely traveling through heat, smog, and the crush on the street for hours on end is to be a part of the terrible pilgrimage and hustle that takes place every day here. Whether you live in the gated communities of Forbes Park or the hives of tin shanties in Tondo, inescapable traffic is the great equalizer and panopticon that dictates daily life.

Working with a fisheye lens that naturally creates a circular, black border, I was required to be extremely close in proximity to any subjects that I photographed with the resulting visual effect being knowingly hyperbolic, elliptical, and caught between a moment of recognition / empathy and abjection / alienation.

Through repetition and circular imagery, this series acts as a rosary in the ecstatic and frantic search for a way out of purgatory. (Lawrence Sumulong)

A homeless woman wearing a dress of garbage and debris amongst the crush of rush hour commuters.

A homeless woman wearing a dress of garbage and debris amongst the crush of rush hour commuters.

A family holding palms from church as they navigate through traffic.

A family holding palms from church as they navigate through traffic.

A working father and his child careen through rush hour traffic on a motorbike that serves as a pedicab for customers.

A working father and his child careen through rush hour traffic on a motorbike that serves as a pedicab for customers.

Trying to hop on the back of a moving jeepney at capacity. Jeepneys are the most popular means of public transportation in the Philippines. They are known for their crowded seating and kitsch decorations, which have become a ubiquitous symbol of Philippine culture, art, appropriation. The vehicles were originally made from U.S. military jeeps left over from World War II.

Trying to hop on the back of a moving jeepney at capacity. Jeepneys are the most popular means of public transportation in the Philippines. They are known for their crowded seating and kitsch decorations, which have become a ubiquitous symbol of Philippine culture, art, appropriation. The vehicles were originally made from U.S. military jeeps left over from World War II.

A woman in the middle of oncoming traffic during rush hour.

A woman in the middle of oncoming traffic during rush hour.

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