Collective Experience

Collective Experience

Society has never been so connected. With over half of the population now living in urban areas – alongside the continual rise of new technologies – communities are evolving, building and rethinking to shape the world of the future.

Responding to this rapid development, Thames & Hudson’s Civilization: The Way We Live Now – a publication featured in Aesthetica Issue 85 – brings together images by 140 leading photographers from around the world. Accompanied by an internationally touring exhibition by the Foundation for the Exhibition of Photography, the 500 images document the collective achievements and shortcomings of global cultures, focusing on our interdependent existence.

Offering an inspiring list of renowned figures, the project features images including Edward Burtynsky’s documentation of the oil industry’s environmental impact; seminal portraiture by Cindy Sherman; Thomas Struth’s depictions of technology and machinery; photographs taken at US Customs by Taryn Simon and Lauren Greenfield’s displays of extreme wealth. Michael Wolf’s Architecture of Density reveals the reality of life in mega-cities such as Hong Kong, whilst Pablo Lopez Luz’s records the sprawling contemporary metropolis. Altogether, it draws a visually and conceptually arresting survey of life on Earth.

The exhibition offers a unique viewing experience. Curated in a web-like structure, it emphasises connections across historical and spatial boundaries, drawing together threads of humankind’s ever-changing collective experience. Reestablishing timelines, this innovative approach offers an alternative chronology, demonstrating our shared existence.

Civilization highlights the power of photography as a medium to draw attention to reality and ignite change. From recording climate change to highlighting pressing socio-political issues, it positions the art form as a unique documentary tool through which to capture a perpetually changing world.

The exhibition opens at National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Seoul, until 17 February and at Flowers Gallery, London, from 7 November.

1. Henrik Spohler, THE THIRD DAY. Tree nursery, rows of clipped trees, northern Germany.
2. Rice Fields, Davis, CA, 2003. Ref.#:LS_8320_28. © Alex MacLean.
3. Detail of Untitled (Train Crossing Great Salt Lake), Utah, 2016. Chromogenic print. © Victoria Sambunaris. Courtesy of the artist and Yancey Richardson Gallery.