The search for suburbia in the new economic centres of the world

19 August 2013

In his series of photographs, Suburbia Gone Wild, Martin Adolfsson captures the search for identity among the new upper middle class in emerging economies around the world, including Moscow. Adolfsson spent six years photographing model mansions in Bangkok, Shanghai, Bangalore, Cairo, Moscow, Johannesburg, São Paulo and Mexico City to reveal a shared perception of what constitutes suburbia.

These McMansions, located in the new economic centres of the world, are eerily similar, creating a series of ersatz suburban enclaves based on a US prototype. In one home, in Shanghai, Adolfsson even found a portrait of John Kerry, the former US presidential candidate.

“This copy+paste behaviour is a result of America’s cultural dominance over the past five decades, exported through soap operas, movies and magazines,” says Adolfsson in an interview. “I also think that the ‘lifestyle’ fills a cultural gap as many of these countries didn’t have an upper middle class until recently and haven’t established a strong identity for this growing class yet.”

In each city, Adolfsson recruited a local partner to pose as his other half while visiting model homes as a potential home buyer. While his partner kept the estate agent busy, he would sneak around, photographing the opulent rooms around the house. The result was a book of photographs published this year following a Kickstarter campaign in January that raised $16,640 and has already been nominated for the Prix Pictet and the Santa Fe Prize.