For the last decade, Dutch Canadian photographer Ryan Koopmans has travelled all over to capture the world's megacities from above.
Finding the geometry, repetition and patterns – the chaos and the symmetry – his aerial shots are not only beautiful compositions; they document the buildings and structures that have sprung up to accommodate a growing population.
Born in Amsterdam, Koopmans was raised on Vancouver Island, in British Columbia, Canada, and completed his undergraduate education at UBC in Vancouver, and in 2012 received a Masters of Fine Art in Photography, Video & Related Media at The School of Visual Arts in New York City.
What inspires him to capture the world in this way? "It's not specific buildings or landmarks, but the lived experiences of the people who interact with them," Koopmans tells Creative Boom. "The built environment has an essential role in shaping a particular society or culture. The growth of global populations has led to rapid urbanisation and the emergence of megacities. The challenges that societies face in adapting to rapid change – both socially and environmentally, but also philosophically and psychologically – is what drives my interest."
He continues: "Our 'developed' cities are increasingly homogenous spaces. It's become hard to differentiate one central business district of an urban centre from another. In reaction to this homogenisation, what I've seen is how many places have reimagined their cultural identity, usually through the form of re-appropriated cultural motifs built into the urban landscape."
He points to the new capital city of Kazakhstan, Nur-Sultan, as an example, which has essentially been built from the ground up and hosts an enormous tent-shaped modern building as an ode to the region's nomadic history. While in Zaandam, a town in the Netherlands, a landmark hotel consists of 'traditional' Dutch house facades stacked on top of one another forming a goliath pile of kitschy symbolism.
"I am fascinated with modernity and its environmental and social consequences. For me, that is a photographic exploration of the way we live," Koopmans adds. "Ultimately, it is the visual nuances that can be found between locations rich and poor, natural and manmade, past and present that offer an insight into what it means to be a human on this rapidly changing planet."
Was there anywhere that particularly took his breath away? "My first trip through northern Kazakhstan and south-eastern Russia, 10 years ago now, was particularly memorable. After shooting a project about the redevelopment of Astana (the capital city of Kazakhstan that has since been renamed to Nur-Sultan) I travelled by train visiting small towns through Siberia. I dove very deep and stayed with locals and was exposed to interesting situations with an extreme language barrier.
"Perhaps the most fascinating places I've visited are the Soviet-era factories still in operation in the country of Georgia. Although they have modernised in some aspects, much of their technology and processes date back to the 1930s. There is a lot of fire and burning embers flying everywhere, which can be challenging but is very impressive when taking pictures."
You can enjoy seeing more of his work in a new book, Vantage, his first monograph that features a decade of photography of megacities around the world. Discover more about Ryan Koopmans at ryankoopmans.com.