My early work took me to the slums and ghettos of the developing world to explore issues surrounding street children and child labour. I was then, and remain now, inspired by the resilience and adaptive skills of humanity at the edge of existence. The ability—en masse, against all odds—to negotiate the chaos of changing environments left a deep and lasting mark on my visual mind. For the last twenty-five years, my practice has centered on a search for meaning within our global mass behaviors.

As a witness to the shift of rural dwellers to a new army of urban residents and the migration of power from the old economies of the north and west to the new of the east and south, it became clear to me that the urban giants of the emerging economies were the defining spaces of our time. Indeed, these cities will account for ninety five per cent of urban growth in the next decades. Mega-cities, and the processes that feed them, are many things at once: a savior to millions of desperately poor people, the engines of growth of the global economy and potential masters of our destruction. They represent the most significant change factor in global poverty reduction and innovation but are also insatiable centers of consumption and waste.

Emotionally and environmentally, these mass ideas, actions, movements of people, production processes, and the titans of political and consumer power that house them, are so huge that no single image can define their influence. So I have endeavored to create new visual languages within which I can communicate a deeper truth. The result is four separate projects— BRICS, EXODUS, STADIA and TIMEOUT—each of which depict landscapes without horizons, built from a myriad of perspectives, each one familiar to the inhabitants of these environments and yet intriguingly new. These images mirror the multiple patterns of migration that feed the human will to conquer and adapt in the name of the future.

—Marcus Lyon

Editors’ Note: Don’t miss the work of all the other winners and finalists from the LensCulture Exposure Awards 2014. In total, you’ll find 31 visually delightful works from across the world.