Audio Guide

《Untitled》
Cyril Porchet
“Crowd” series
2014

Cyril Porchet has chosen not to title his astonishing crowd scene (one of a series of huge crowds, none of which bear titles), where brightly-clothed human beings seem to swarm like insects, with swirling patterns of certain groups in motion rippling through the mass. They pack Porchet’s frame to the limit—a nightmarish thought to any claustrophobe! Religious celebrations? Protests? Festivals? It matters not. What does matter is the implicit message that this is not chaos we are witnessing, but a well-orchestrated mass phenomenon: each of the participants is well-clothed and adequately fed, each has come to share something of value, and will at a certain moment retire to his or her home. Not visible is the infrastructure of such an event: the permits, the police monitors, the public health workers, and the near-at-hand provision of adequate food, water, and toilets. Cities, Porchet’s picture reminds us, take such mass behavior in their stride.
《Vista Aerea de la Ciudad de Mexico, XIII》
Pablo López Luz
“Terrazo” series
2006

In the 21st century, billions of people around the world live in cities, and almost 240 million people live in the ten biggest cities in the world. The 6th biggest megalopolis is greater Mexico City, with its population of around 22 million. How does a photographer convey such staggering numbers in a single image? In Pablo Lopez Luz’s case, he does it from the air; as far as the eye can see, waves of humanity wash across the landscape. Somehow, the essentials of daily life get to the inhabitants below, though they are distributed unequally and often unjustly. Urbanites demand much of their urban machines, and for many at least a minimum of services is provided. Wealth and poverty often live side-by-side, but from the air we see only the common fate of this great city’s millions of citizens. High and low, rich and poor, they must somehow collaborate to survive.
《Augustiner Chorherrenstift Sankt Florian III》
Candida Höfer
2014

Candida Höfer’s respectful depiction of the famous library of the abbey Augustiner Chorherrenstift in St. Florian, Austria, dating at least from the year 819, may seem like a strange choice for an exhibition on 21st-century civilization, given the many interiors of libraries of our own time Hofer has pictured over the years. But this particular library’s Baroque architecture reminds us that our current civilization values, incorporates, and conserves the wisdom of the past. Each of those 150,000 volumes, a substantial portion of which we see on shelves maintained for at least three centuries, might be considered a building block of our evolving planetary civilization. In those books are the keys to the sciences and technologies, the arts and philosophies that have guided collective human effort since ancient times. While the florid exuberance of the Baroque style that characterizes the magnificent ceiling seems foreign to modern eyes, where form mostly follows function, we are reminded that libraries across the ages are fundamental to the human hive.
《Construction of the Burj Khalifa Tower, Dubai》
Philippe Chancel
“Datazone” series
2008

If we compare the towers certain ants construct, their relative size would be comparable to some of Shanghai’s tallest buildings! Philippe Chancel’s depiction of the construction of what is probably for a brief time the tallest building in the world, Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, cannot help but remind us of the work of industrious ants; like them, humans can only erect such structures through huge collective efforts: mastering geometry, the material sciences, trial and error, and so on—in short, mastering human intelligence. Collective intelligence has even allowed us, after centuries, to outperform the ants. The Burj Khalifa, which reaches a height of 828 meters, is 473 times the height of a person, compared to 136 times the depth of the deepest tunnels in ants’ nests. The “tallest building” game humans play never ceases, as nations and cities compete for the skills of a coterie of star architects, hoping to gain attention, prestige, and corresponding financial rewards.
《CEAGESP Sao Paulo Analog Digital Diptych》
Massimo Vitali
2012

Previously a photojournalist and a cinematographer, Massimo Vitali creates large-scale photographs that are populated by crowds engaged in work or leisure. He often shoots from an elevated perspective, capturing a highly detailed scene in which the setting and architecture is less important than the dozens of personal interactions and individual gestures occurring simultaneously.
Vitali’s diptych photographs, like this one of a market in São Paulo, Brazil, call attention to the differences between digital and analog photography. While the discrepancies are minimal, juxtaposing these two images invites the reader to question exactly how artists and photographers depict reality. Especially in photos, which often purport to be a closer representation of reality, how do technology, medium, and the artist’s interventions affect the final portrayal? Vitali asks the question but leaves the answer to the viewer.
《Trapped - sub-divided 01》
Benny Lam
“Trapped” series
2012

Subdivided flats are apartments in Hong Kong that the landlord has converted into several narrow sub-domiciles. This distinctive housing phenomenon is ubiquitous throughout Hong Kong. As the city’s housing prices and rents began to skyrocket, these inhospitable living conditions were a natural consequence for lower income urbanites unable to absorb rising costs. Hong Kong photographer Benny Lam personally visited more than a hundred subdivided flats to document the people and things that occupy these cramped residential spaces. The environmental conditions of these homes are often unimaginably decrepit, and Lam candidly reveals the rapidly worsening housing crisis in Hong Kong. The rooms in these photos often take up less than four square meters, yet for some people, they are the size of their entire home.
《Hines, Puxi Construction》
Lois Conner
2016

Lois Conner first visited China in 1984 on a Guggenheim Fellowship in Yangshuo, and she still returns every year for months at a time to photograph here. She uses a banquet camera, which is a large, long-exposure camera often used for panoramas and landscape photography. Using this somewhat antiquated tool, she explores the idea of landscape as culture. Every scene is a subtle accumulation of history and nature, fact and fiction. This format is also rooted in a deep engagement with art historical depictions of nature, from an early interest in Cézanne, Van Gogh, and Pollack to a revelatory encounter with Ming dynasty landscape paintings in her student years. The latter influence, in particular, has an impact on the styles and themes of her photography to this day.
《Venice, London, Shanghai, Cape Town Moscow, Tokyo, New York, Panama City Mexico City, Tel Aviv, Paris, Cairo,Athens, Nairobi, São Paolo, Seoul》
Roger Eberhard
“Standard” series
2015—2016

For his “Standard” series, Roger Eberhard traveled to 32 countries on every continent. In each location, he booked a standard room at a Hilton hotel and took two photographs: one of the room’s interior, always from the same angle; and one of the landscape outside the room’s window. These two images form a diptych that highlights a design topology that can be found across the globe: the lamps, bed linens, and even the alarm clock all follow the same pattern. Only by looking at the scenery outside can one surmise the country or continent of the hotel. In most cases, even the landscape is strikingly similar, especially those in cities. Eberhard explores the question of a world increasingly homogenized by standardization. He invites audiences to consider why, even when we travel to foreign soils to experience different cultures, we still find ourselves staying in places that are invariably identical. Where do these standards come from, and who devises them? How can localism persist within this standardization?
《Evergreen Tower》
Yeondoo Jung
2001

Yeondoo Jung’s “Evergreen Tower” series opens the front door onto a social experiment in contemporary downtown Seoul. In 2001, the artist photographed 31 family portraits in the living rooms of identical single family home apartment tower in the eastern part of the city. The uniformity of each living space seems to be a metaphor for our lives—each given certain tools and abilities, how do we decide to use them? The portraits are self-posed with each family preparing their most prized possession or those with which they identify most strongly, reminiscent (almost tragically) of practices in portraiture from generations past, we see the personality of each family and can begin to imagine the story of each nuclear unit. As we move on in the 21st century, this work leads us to wonder, will more of us live in such cookie-cutter spaces? And as our lives become more and more homogenous, is the only way to distinguish ourselves through the objects that represent us and the things we can buy?
《Skyping Soldier 4》
Adam Ferguson
“Skyping Soldiers” series
2011

When we think of photographs of soldiers, what usually comes to mind are stiff portraits of men presenting themselves as paragons of discipline and bravery. Or we imagine pictures of men in action, taking terrible risks, with grit and fear etched on their faces. Photojournalist Adam Ferguson has instead chosen quiet moments to remind us of their humanity; he shows his soldiers off-duty, absorbed in communications with their loved ones back home… And yet, there seems to be a strange disconnect; the soldiers are looking but not speaking. Despite the “wonders” of modern modes of communications, his subjects seem very aware that they are not in the same rooms as their girlfriends, wives, or children. It is even possible that, given their experiences, they have seen things, or know things, that they don’t wish to share. What better illustration of the human dilemma: alone and together?
《Anonymous, Los Angeles》
Katy Grannan
“Boulevard” series
2008

Katy Grannan’s subjects, caught in the blinding glare of a California sun, restless and seemingly on their way somewhere, (but where, she does not say) convey a mix of emotions. Grannan considers her pictures to be portraits. But why does she title them “anonymous,” if they are meant to portray specific people? The answer is that all her subjects have agreed to be photographed and have posed for her. She has therefore relinquished the power of the candid (or stolen) shot in favor of collusion with her subjects. It is the story of shared human experience that is important to Grannan, not so much the individual cases of struggle. Grannan is intrigued by common fates, by people who have resigned themselves to the next throw of the dice. This is not the glamorous California promoted by Hollywood. Human resilience is the photographer’s true subject. She searches for the traces of small victories and defeats etched on faces and on bodies.
《Work, Work, Work》
Wang Qingsong
2012

Wang Qingsong’s Work, Work, Work may elicit a smile, as its apparent theatricality is evident. The picture is a curious mix of order and chaos, as people in hospital gowns apply themselves intently to some form of urban planning, even as they receive IV drips. Possibly we are observing the office of an architect or a governmental department. The pace seems feverish, as if the city they are conceiving is springing up almost as they work. The picture is, of course, pure theater; Wang has painstakingly built his set and posed his actors. For many years, this artist has used photography to critique the rapid change that is sweeping through Chinese society. Yet the critique has relevance for us all: where are the limits on change for modern (or postmodern) societies, and what limits do we need to set for our individual selves? Is work to be worshipped, at the expense of other human needs? Can we draw lines?
《Desiree and Karen, 68 Days》
Dona Schwartz
“Expecting Parents” series
2006

Dona Schwartz’s two series “Expecting Parents” and “Empty Nesters” may be seen as interlocking parts of a whole, or as independent bodies of work. Schwartz takes as her subject parents and children, the first series dealing with couples anxiously (or serenely) awaiting the arrival of a tiny human being; the latter coming to terms with the moment when their child, now become an adult, flees the nest. The photographer, originally trained as an anthropologist, is extremely sensitive to the shifts in social relations: her couples are heterosexual, gay or lesbian, and of mixed race. They are posed in the rooms of their progeny, and the environments they have created speak volumes to their parental hopes and aspirations. Schwartz’s report is respectful and moving. We see our fellow beings struggling with the weight of their responsibilities; doing their best to give their children the best of themselves they can offer.
《Carpoolers #1》
Alejandro Cartagena
“Carpoolers” series
2011—2012

Carpooling normally refers to middle-class suburbanites, rationalizing their commutes to work. Alejandro Cartagena’s use of the term is somewhat ironic, referring instead to the rough rides to work taken by workers in Mexico, whose personal finances do not allow for anything remotely comfortable, or for whom public transportation is not an option. The photographer has chosen a brilliant vantage point: a bridge over the highway, necessitating a keen eye and quick reflexes. But this is no game for Cartagena: the context in which he wishes his work to be seen and understood is the struggle for daily existence these workers face, one of uncertainty and paltry rewards. The work underlines the invisibility of a huge class of citizens to most of the wealthier drivers flying by, oblivious to the contents of those flatbed trucks.
《Manufacturing #17, Deda Chicken Processing Plant, Dehui City, Jilin Province, China》
Edward Burtynsky
“China” series
2005

Edward Burtynsky’s picture of a vast chicken processing plant in China speaks of the extraordinary collective nature of modern food production in a rapidly developing nation that must feed well over one billion people. The photographer has purposely centered the image with receding rows of identically clothed workers to the point where they vanish in the distance, as if to suggest the staggering scale of the collective effort. No single worker dominates, no individuality shines through: each worker is seen as a cog in a well-oiled, highly disciplined machine. The picture can be viewed simply as documentary evidence of a complex industrial system, one step of many in the food chain; or metaphorically as a sign of the tremendous challenges facing China as it positions itself for a leading role in 21st-century planetary civilization.
《Newark 8 Terminal B, Newark, NJ》
Jeffrey Milstein
“Airports” series
2016

Pilot-turned-photographer Jeffrey Milstein’s work is heavily influenced by a life-long passion for aviation and an attentive eye for architecture and social organization as seen directly from above. In his remarkable aerial photography, control is akin to the human micro-management of the natural environment—on one hand, our ability to radically alter physical topography to fit our needs, and on the other to overcome natural forces and gravity to move from point A to point B. This photograph of Newark Airport reveals itself as a textbook illustration of contemporary civilization’s degree of precise control over its environment. The earth has been paved over to facilitate smooth take-off and landing, outside the scene humans busy themselves reporting on weather conditions and monitoring potential turbulence so that we can arrive in Beijing from New York with scarcely an annoying bump in the ride. What remains of nature is purely decorative, sketched by a designer as little more than a graphic flourish in what will soon be his aerial-focused “composition” fixed in concrete and metal. This will eventually seen from the air by the millions who take to the sky every day—and by one observant photographer.
《site specific_MEXICO CITY 11》
Olivo Barbieri
“site specific_ 03 13” series
2011

At first glance, Olivo Barbieri’s twin pictures of Mexico City seem unreal, as if they are brightly colored drawings submitted as a proposal for a colorful public monument. This sense is heightened by Barbieri’s purposeful suppression of detail on the busy streets below, as the flow of traffic works itself around the imposing obstacle, and by the fact that the towers seem to point in different directions in the two photographs. But the Torres de Satélite are real, and the up/down illusion is purely due to the photographer’s clever aerial positioning first to the north, and then to the south. The five concrete towers in triangular prism shapes were created by the sculptor Mathias Goeritz and the architect Luis Barragán in 1957. Their minimalism and impressive verticality are meant to trigger feelings of hope for the thousands of mobile citizens which see them each day. The towers became a symbol of a new type of urban monumental sculpture that broke with conventional architectural traditions and pointed toward a utopian future for the exploding megalopolis.
《Las Vegas》
Lee Friedlander
“America by Car” series
2002

For millennia, mankind moved at a human pace, on average .5 mph. On horseback, we managed to double our speed, a revolutionary step in societal evolution. Today, the family car typically boasts 170 hp, which we take for granted and even sometimes complain about. We also take for granted the phenomenal freedom of mobility the automobile gives us. And yet, once we’re inside these machines, looking out, they become largely invisible to us. In the series America by Car, Lee Friedlander redresses the balance. In his travels across most of the fifty states, he has chosen to frame the sights which capture his imagination with the artificial frame of the car’s interior: windshield, side window, steering wheel, mirrors, and parts of the dashboard. Is this not how most of us encounter most of the world? Motels, national parks, roadside signs, city skylines… quintessential American landscapes all, are seen through the “aperture” of the machine in which we spend so much of our daily lives.
《Excellences & Perfections》
Amalia Ulman
2014

Excellences & Perfections is an Instagram performance that exposes vehicles of persuasion on the internet. In 2014, Argentinian artist Amalia Ulman used the popular social media platform to construct a fictitious self online. Having researched meticulously the online presences of global “super bloggers” and Korean pop icons, the artist identified brands and lifestyle choices as the markers of social class and character by which young women increasingly define themselves on the Internet. The performance is divided into three parts, each one distinctly presenting a persona to the outside world who would be defined by markers of class, physical traits, and characteristics, such as the changing color of her hair, the food she eats, the way she herself and others treat her body, and the way she spends her leisure time. This theatricalization brilliantly addresses how gender and identity is influenced and constructed by consumerism; how each of us “naturally” builds a “self-actualized” persona we choose to share with the world through the Internet. The image we present to the world is not our reality, it is one we cultivate, curate, and carefully edit. In Ulman’s work, photography is once again caught between its role to capture images from the “real world” and its tremendous potential for fiction. While live, the Instagram transformation of Amalia Ulman—from an art student, to a plastic surgery enhanced call-girl, to reformed yoga and organic foods lover—was perceived by many as the real life of the artist only further attesting to the rampant potential for untruths and expectations surrounding images in our extremely mediated online society.
《Breakout space, Transportation finance bank》
Andreia Alves de Oliviera
“The Politics of the Office” series
2014

Andreia Alves de Oliviera is interested in the modern arts of persuasion, but prefers to go behind the scenes to see where the strategies are conceived, executed, refined, and evaluated. In her series “The Politics of the Office,” shot over three years, she accesses the workspaces of advertising agencies, financial institutions like specialized banks and hedge funds, law firms and brand consultants, appropriating the catchy terms they have devised for their trendy spaces—a “lookout room,” a “breakout space,” “hot-desking,” and the like. De Oliviera is not interested in the specific individuals who work in these spaces. Indeed, by only ever photographing the spaces devoid of people, she suggests that “who” these people are is immaterial; individuals will come and go, be hired and fired; the persuasion industry will remain. Of more interest than the characters are the furniture and its configuration.
《JAP5011-2016》
Patrick Weidmann
2016

Patrick Weidmann is not interested in simple documentation of the landscape of persuasion, such as billboards and signs: 60% off! Free! Improved!, or in racks of luxury goods on the shelves of designer shops. His interests lie in the deeper structures of consumer psychology—what might be called the visual language of persuasion. He asks us to consider: what principles draw us to consume en masse? Why are we drawn to certain products and not to others? The glitter of light on plastic and metal, the seduction of sinuous form, the smooth feel of cool surfaces... Weidmann’s close croppings obscure scale and confound meaning: just what are those bizarre things filling his frame? Furthermore, he blinds us with confusing reflections, plunging us into a world of dazzling artifice. He provides no solace, offering instead a warning: blind materialism leads only to a dead-end.
Times Square, New York》
Robert Walker
2010

Marketeers, promoters, politicians, propagandists, advertisers… Almost everyone everywhere is bombarded daily with “messages” encouraging us to buy this or that product, subscribe to this or that magazine, vote for this or that candidate, adhere to this or that ideology. They prey subtly on our desires, our fears, our vanities, and our pride. Robert Walker has for many years focused his camera on that epicenter of incessant, strident collective messaging—New York City’s ever-pulsing Times Square—observing keenly the interplay between the monumentally scaled flashing signs and their moving targets: the tiny human figures of the tourists constantly streaming through this glittering playground, spellbound by all the dazzle. Do they not recognize that, for a brief moment, they are part of the spectacular tableau? Walker suggests we are all complicit in the theater of persuasion.
《Duplication》
Han Sungpil
“Façade” series
2010

Throughout the history of art, two veins have been in constant competition—a dialogue between realism and idealism. How to achieve the ideal amidst the grime of the contemporary city machine? Han Sungpil’s work from the series “Façade” indirectly addresses this duality, using the modern cityscape as his tableau. An observant photographer, he has travelled the world contemplating the oddity of architectural façades and painted scenes that can be found on tarps and posters of our world’s cities, used to conceal construction sites and unsightly building renovations. Sometimes these large-scale images are as simple as a photograph of the building that existed beforehand and will once again inhabit the space, and sometimes they are more romantic: a trompe l’oeil, or a fantastical work. For the artist, these façades have the potential to be “new memories” within the real space. The prevalence of this practice across cultures leads us to question a seemingly global obsession to hide from the less pleasant, practical aspects of our civilization behind an idealized or glossy image of our existence. The photograph, framing this juxtaposition of real and replica, emphasizes the blurring of the real and imaginary. It also leads us to contemplate photography as a medium—fundamentally, also always with an original and a duplicate.
《Diergaarde Blijdorp Rotterdam, The Netherlands》
Sheng-Wen Lo
“White Bear” series
2016

The series “White Bear” documents polar bears living in zoos around the world. Though photographer Sheng-Wen Lo chose the polar bear as his subject, his interest lies not in any specific species, but rather in exploring the problems and paradoxes of wild animals raised in artificial environs for the purpose of being viewed. To confine these animals, manmade structures, including grasslands, pools, fake mountains, painted icebergs, artificial seals, yachts, and even skyscrapers, meld notions of nature, the home, and the stage. These sites, along with their protective fences and the animals they pen in, come together to form an uncanny spectacle. Lo has noted, “As natural habitats are being destroyed, it may be reasonable to keep certain species in controlled environments; however, I think it is questionable whether some results are a true reflection of the original motive. The existence of captive white bears embodies this ambiguity. Promoted as exotic tourist-magnets, the bears stand at the point where the institutions’ mission of conservation, research, and education is challenged by their interest in entertainment.”
《Piscinao de Ramos》
Massimo Vitali
2012

Massimo Vitali’s photograph of the blinding white sand beach bathers from Brazil’s Piscinao de Ramos speaks of a global collective culture of commodified leisure. The photographer has chosen not to focus on the beach itself, but instead on the crowds—bringing his horizon line nearly to the top edge of the composition, thus reversing the expected perspective of a vast ocean stretching to the horizon. Instead, we are presented with seemingly endless bright white sand sprinkled with the multi-colored pink, yellow, blue, and green dots of sunbathers. Each year, millions of us still take pleasure in this simple escape from our daily routines, conforming to a collective sense of satisfaction of “getting away from it all” while unconsciously consenting to a particular entitlement and impressions of novelty and affluence.
《Film Set (“Free State of Jones”), Battle of Corinth, Bush, Louisiana》
An-My Lê
“The Silent General” series
2015

Since the commercial introduction of television in the late 1930s, through the lens of a storyteller we can experience any multitude of new adventures from the comfort of our home. An-My Lê’s work from the series Silent General, is taken on the set of a Civil War-era film about a Confederate Army deserter, Free State of Jones (2016). This image, like so many of Lê’s works, boomerangs through time and space. The imagined past and present sit side-by-side begging the question: when does history end and the present begin? The popularity of war stories and period drama in popular culture would in some ways suggest though that perhaps history never actually ends and that the raw materials of America’s bloodiest war—race, class, labor, and capital—are still deeply enmeshed in the physical landscape and the fabric of American society today.
《Picote power station: chart for scheduling the periodic maintenance of the generating sets》
Edgar Martins
“The Time Machine: An Incomplete & Semi-Objective Survey of Hydropower Stations” series
2011

This photograph is from Edgar Martins’ series “The Time Machine,” a topographic survey of hydroelectric power plants. The artist explored twenty power stations throughout Portugal, most of which were built between the 1950s and 1970s as the country experienced rapid growth and social change. These complexes were built to house hundreds of workers, but now, thanks to centralized computer systems, they are operated by only a few employees. These buildings testify to this generation’s technological idealism, one in which man and machine would prosper together. The maintenance chart seen here, by contrast, implies the mechanization that makes human labor more and more irrelevant in our world today.
《Untitled [Police School Classroom, Aylmer]》
Lynne Cohen
2003

Lynne Cohen took this photograph in a police school in Canada, where trainees roleplay domestic disturbance cases using paintball guns and mannequins. Nothing in the photograph was changed from how she found the scene. Cohen was struck by the uncanny drama of the props and poses. As she notes, “I love how formal and arranged the mess looks: the mannequin with green trousers, the stain on the floor that goes up the wall, the way the spots on the curtain seem to have a symbiotic relationship with the paintball splatter on the mannequin’s jacket. It’s like the spots have escaped and attacked it.” As with many of her works, there is a deadpan quality to this image, neutrally presenting a strange social phenomenon with no overt emotionality.
《Recruit》
Hiroshi Okamoto
2014

“I want to die.” So read an email sent to photographer Hiroshi Okamoto in 2013 by his close friend Yo Toshino. Okamoto was inspired to document Toshino’s job hunt as the latter prepared to graduate university. In Japan, more than half a million students compete in a rigorous, highly structured employment process every year, a struggle that can determine the course of their entire lives. The pressure is enormous, at times leading to mental illness. The photographic series “Recruit” records just one such story.
Hiroshi Okamoto is a visual storyteller interested in the relationship between the individual and society. In university, he studied anthropology and social sciences, and it is through this lens that he captures his subjects.
《Don Sapatkin's Desk, A Week Before The Move, 4:43pm》
Will Steacy
“Deadline” series
2012

For his series “Deadline,” Will Steacy was given unrestricted access to the newsroom and printing plant of The Philadelphia Inquirer for five years. His photographs document the decline of the newspaper industry in the digital age. As Steacy writes, “Having shed forty percent of its workforce in the past decade, newspapers are America’s fastest shrinking industry, yet more than half of American adults know little to nothing about the financial struggles that have eviscerated newsrooms.” To the artist, the death of the newspaper heralds far greater dangers—where the press once served as a check on corporations, politicians, and other powerful institutions, we now risk losing this key pillar of society. The industry is also a synecdoche for the shrinking middle-class workforce as the world enters an economy of automation and information technology.
《TVs from Craigslist》
Penelope Umbrico
2008—ongoing

Penelope Umbrico photographs intriguing yet impersonal inventories of things we love but ultimately discard. The image here is a collage of blurry portraits within black squares. These are images the artist downloaded from Craig’s List, an American classifieds website, of used televisions for sale, from which she cropped and enlarged only the screens. Though they are purely utilitarian, commercial photos, they quite literally reflect the subjectivity and individuality of the photographer or seller. Likely without realizing it, the sellers have left their silhouettes on the dark screens of these unwanted objects. It is a gesture that seems private and intimate, yet it is available for all to see. For each photo in this series, Umbrico produced two editions: one would be sold in a gallery as an artwork, while the other would be sold on Craig’s List for the price of the original TV. She sees the near infinite amount of images online as a rich archive of materials and a pathway to understand society today, and in this way her works embody a wide range of contemporary dichotomies: consumer and producer, materiality and immateriality, individual expression and collective will.
《San Diego - Tijuana XI, Frontera USA-Mexico》
Pablo Lopez-Luz
“Frontera” series
2015

Pablo Lopez-Luz proposes a new perspective on societal breakdown, targeting the Mexico-US border in this work from his series “Frontera” (2014-15). The project focuses not on the many personal stories of hope and heartbreak that unfold at this infamous border, but takes a birds-eye view—stepping back and photographing both the US and Mexican territories divided by the physical edifice of a wall. In San Diego - Tijuana XI, Frontera USA-Mexico, no political references can be identified, only one continuous landscape of rolling hills. This unusual distance from the partition makes it almost impossible for the viewer to distinguish from which side of the wall they are looking, demonstrating the nonsense of such human artifice in the greater context of geography.
《SOUP: Nurdles Ingredients; nurdles –the industrial raw material of plastic collected from six different beaches.》
Mandy Barker
“SOUP” series
2011

“It is estimated that of the millions of tons of plastic ever produced, almost 80 percent is still in existence, in the sea or in landfill sites.” So writes Mandy Barker, who confronts audiences with the ecological devastation of plastic pollution through her photographs. Her “SOUP” series refers to a common term for plastic debris floating throughout the ocean. All the plastics photographed are salvaged from beaches around the world, and the works’ titles record the ingredients in each image. These poignant photographs operate through contradiction, juxtaposing the aesthetic beauty of the objects with the disturbing reality they reflect. She hopes viewers might reflect on how every one of us contributes to this ongoing crisis, while raising the most urgent question: What can be done to save our planet?
《disCONNEXION, A14》
Xing Danwen
2002—2003

Xing Danwen chose to tackle one of the collective marks humankind leaves on the natural landscape in her sinuous compositions from “disCONNEXION.” On average, our cellphones are obsolete in two years, and we buy new ones at the store or online. Then what happens? Where do they go? Along the coast of southern China in the early 2000s, hundreds of thousands of workers made their living by dismantling and burning piles of computer and electronic components in order to extract bits of copper, brass, aluminium, and zinc for resale, operating in rough environmental and social conditions. Technological waste is one outcome of a global increase in wealth and consumerism. Xing Danwen’s photographs are powerful documents of this globally scaled problem. She has chosen to portray this waste intimately, even somewhat aesthetically: discarded telephones, electronic wires, and computer parts… each pile of trash becomes a composition of line and form, transporting it from its specific context. These images could be from anywhere. With the incredible renewal rate and lack of recycling for our handheld devices, and electronics generally, these large-scale photographic works convey the immensity of our global e-wastelands.
《Idomeni》
Richard Mosse
“Heat Maps” series
2016

Idomeni comes from Richard Mosse’s series “Heat Maps.” In this group of works, the artist uses thermographic photography to document the plight of refugees and migrants today. Mosse stitches together hundreds of frames taken at a high eye level of different camps and other significant sites from the refugee crisis. These thermal panoramas, with their myriad focuses and vanishing points, depict these scenes in extreme detail. The Idomeni camp seen here was in Greece near the border with Macedonia. It was an unofficial compound that formed when European countries began closing their borders, leaving more than ten thousand migrants stuck in Greece. As an informal camp, government services were sparse, and it has since been closed and its inhabitants relocated. Mosse aims to highlight the harsh struggles these refugees endure and their struggles that often go ignored.
《Field (North Ward Estes Oil Field, Ward County, Texas)》
Mishka Henner
2013

As with many of Mishka Henner’s works, this photograph of an oil field in Texas is a digital composite of hundreds of high-resolution satellite images. Through this distinctive process, his works achieve a monumental size even as they are rendered in extremely high detail. Henner is interested in how new platforms like Google Earth allow us to visualize industrial infrastructures that would be impossible to see in full on the ground, and thereby consider the environmental effects of industry. The geometric patterns that result transform abstract systems of capitalism and industry into concrete images. To Henner, oil is at the very core of American society. Its effects can be felt everywhere, inextricable from America’s history and its values.
《Ergol #1, S1B clean room, Arianespace, Guiana Space Center [CGS], Kourou, French Guiana》
Vincent Fournier
“Space Project” series
2011

Vincent Fournier has nurtured a particular love for the idea of space travel. Although he has photographed many of its most representative places, including the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center of Star City in Russia; the Baikonour Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan; the Space Centers of NASA in Cape Canaveral in the United States; and the Arianespace in French Guiana, among many more, his interest is not documentary, though the images are certainly rooted in reality. It is instead the dream aspect which fascinates him, a collective dream he believes he shares with many others. Here he has photographed the astronauts dwarfed by their high-tech environments, ready for their leap off the earth, but nonetheless tethered to it.
《“A Guide to the Flora and Fauna of the World” series》
Robert Zhao Renhui
2013

A former animal activist, Robert Zhao Renhui has dedicated his artistic career to exploring questions of humanity’s relationship to nature. A selection of works from his project the “Encyclopaedia of Flora and Fauna of the World” (2013) alert us to the futuristic, genetically modified species that are already among us. These plants and animals have been designed to better adapt to the logic of distribution systems and codes of modern aesthetics: unbreakable eggs can be tossed into trucks and planes, saving time; tattooed fish fulfill the desire for a colorful pet. Zhao’s complete project comprises 55 real species of plants and animals, often ignored by traditional scientific discourse, that have been affected by aesthetic, genetic, evolutionary, or ecologic influences, all displayed in a colorful alternative encyclopedia. Presented as a typology, each species is isolated on a neutral, vibrant, multi-colored background. By choosing to not show these common plants and animals in a naturalistic environment, the artist emphasizes the artificial origins of these species, designed for study, commercial resources, their aesthetic component, or our entertainment.
《f.a.s.t.》
Michael Najjar
“outer space” series
2017

What could be more futuristic than looking toward otherworldly civilizations? Photographer and astronaut-in-training Michael Najjar’s work f.a.s.t (2017) depicts the largest astronomical radio telescope on earth. In 2016, China built this staggeringly large instrument called the “Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope” in the remote and barely accessible southern mountainous region of the country. It can be tilted by computer to change the focus on different parts of the universe. Radio telescopes use a large parabolic dish to collect radio waves from distant sources such as pulsars, black holes, and gravitational waves. However, one of the main objectives of the instrument is to detect interstellar communication signals—signals from alien civilizations. Searching for alien life means searching for the source of life in general and confronting a fundamental question facing humankind: where do we come from? We might well imagine that one day the first extraterrestrial communication signals will hit the surface of this spherical telescope before being broadcast across the planet. The inconceivable size of “f.a.s.t” may also be seen as a metaphor for the immeasurability of time and space.
《Clock Tower, Brooklyn, XXXVI: June 16, 2009》
Vera Lutter
2009

Time is a central theme of Vera Lutter’s photography, both in the subjects she captures and in the methods she employs. For this work and others, she uses a camera obscura, a room-sized black box with a single pinhole that projects an image onto a wall, which in turn is captured by photographic paper over a slow exposure. The process creates a negative image that the artist does not reproduce; every photograph is unique.
The series of works to which this piece belongs was created at 1 Main Street in Brooklyn, a historic apartment building topped by four glass clocks that look out on each cardinal direction. During the day, the clocks illuminate the building; at night, the light from inside shines out. The long exposure necessary to produce these photographs results in a literal imprint of time through light, overlaid on different facets of the urban landscape.

《Untitled》

《Untitled》
Cyril Porchet
“Crowd” series
2014

Cyril Porchet has chosen not to title his astonishing crowd scene (one of a series of huge crowds, none of which bear titles), where brightly-clothed human beings seem to swarm like insects, with swirling patterns of certain groups in motion rippling through the mass. They pack Porchet’s frame to the limit—a nightmarish thought to any claustrophobe! Religious celebrations? Protests? Festivals? It matters not. What does matter is the implicit message that this is not chaos we are witnessing, but a well-orchestrated mass phenomenon: each of the participants is well-clothed and adequately fed, each has come to share something of value, and will at a certain moment retire to his or her home. Not visible is the infrastructure of such an event: the permits, the police monitors, the public health workers, and the near-at-hand provision of adequate food, water, and toilets. Cities, Porchet’s picture reminds us, take such mass behavior in their stride.

《Vista Aerea de la Ciudad de Mexico, XIII》

《Vista Aerea de la Ciudad de Mexico, XIII》
Pablo López Luz
“Terrazo” series
2006

In the 21st century, billions of people around the world live in cities, and almost 240 million people live in the ten biggest cities in the world. The 6th biggest megalopolis is greater Mexico City, with its population of around 22 million. How does a photographer convey such staggering numbers in a single image? In Pablo Lopez Luz’s case, he does it from the air; as far as the eye can see, waves of humanity wash across the landscape. Somehow, the essentials of daily life get to the inhabitants below, though they are distributed unequally and often unjustly. Urbanites demand much of their urban machines, and for many at least a minimum of services is provided. Wealth and poverty often live side-by-side, but from the air we see only the common fate of this great city’s millions of citizens. High and low, rich and poor, they must somehow collaborate to survive.

《Augustiner Chorherrenstift Sankt Florian III》

《Augustiner Chorherrenstift Sankt Florian III》
Candida Höfer
2014

Candida Höfer’s respectful depiction of the famous library of the abbey Augustiner Chorherrenstift in St. Florian, Austria, dating at least from the year 819, may seem like a strange choice for an exhibition on 21st-century civilization, given the many interiors of libraries of our own time Hofer has pictured over the years. But this particular library’s Baroque architecture reminds us that our current civilization values, incorporates, and conserves the wisdom of the past. Each of those 150,000 volumes, a substantial portion of which we see on shelves maintained for at least three centuries, might be considered a building block of our evolving planetary civilization. In those books are the keys to the sciences and technologies, the arts and philosophies that have guided collective human effort since ancient times. While the florid exuberance of the Baroque style that characterizes the magnificent ceiling seems foreign to modern eyes, where form mostly follows function, we are reminded that libraries across the ages are fundamental to the human hive.

《Construction of the Burj Khalifa Tower, Dubai》

《Construction of the Burj Khalifa Tower, Dubai》
Philippe Chancel
“Datazone” series
2008

If we compare the towers certain ants construct, their relative size would be comparable to some of Shanghai’s tallest buildings! Philippe Chancel’s depiction of the construction of what is probably for a brief time the tallest building in the world, Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, cannot help but remind us of the work of industrious ants; like them, humans can only erect such structures through huge collective efforts: mastering geometry, the material sciences, trial and error, and so on—in short, mastering human intelligence. Collective intelligence has even allowed us, after centuries, to outperform the ants. The Burj Khalifa, which reaches a height of 828 meters, is 473 times the height of a person, compared to 136 times the depth of the deepest tunnels in ants’ nests. The “tallest building” game humans play never ceases, as nations and cities compete for the skills of a coterie of star architects, hoping to gain attention, prestige, and corresponding financial rewards.

《Construction of the Burj Khalifa Tower, Dubai》

《CEAGESP Sao Paulo Analog Digital Diptych》
Massimo Vitali
2012

Previously a photojournalist and a cinematographer, Massimo Vitali creates large-scale photographs that are populated by crowds engaged in work or leisure. He often shoots from an elevated perspective, capturing a highly detailed scene in which the setting and architecture is less important than the dozens of personal interactions and individual gestures occurring simultaneously.
Vitali’s diptych photographs, like this one of a market in São Paulo, Brazil, call attention to the differences between digital and analog photography. While the discrepancies are minimal, juxtaposing these two images invites the reader to question exactly how artists and photographers depict reality. Especially in photos, which often purport to be a closer representation of reality, how do technology, medium, and the artist’s interventions affect the final portrayal? Vitali asks the question but leaves the answer to the viewer.

《Trapped - sub-divided 01》

《Trapped - sub-divided 01》
Benny Lam
“Trapped” series
2012

Subdivided flats are apartments in Hong Kong that the landlord has converted into several narrow sub-domiciles. This distinctive housing phenomenon is ubiquitous throughout Hong Kong. As the city’s housing prices and rents began to skyrocket, these inhospitable living conditions were a natural consequence for lower income urbanites unable to absorb rising costs. Hong Kong photographer Benny Lam personally visited more than a hundred subdivided flats to document the people and things that occupy these cramped residential spaces. The environmental conditions of these homes are often unimaginably decrepit, and Lam candidly reveals the rapidly worsening housing crisis in Hong Kong. The rooms in these photos often take up less than four square meters, yet for some people, they are the size of their entire home.

《Hines, Puxi Construction》

《Hines, Puxi Construction》
Lois Conner
2016

Lois Conner first visited China in 1984 on a Guggenheim Fellowship in Yangshuo, and she still returns every year for months at a time to photograph here. She uses a banquet camera, which is a large, long-exposure camera often used for panoramas and landscape photography. Using this somewhat antiquated tool, she explores the idea of landscape as culture. Every scene is a subtle accumulation of history and nature, fact and fiction. This format is also rooted in a deep engagement with art historical depictions of nature, from an early interest in Cézanne, Van Gogh, and Pollack to a revelatory encounter with Ming dynasty landscape paintings in her student years. The latter influence, in particular, has an impact on the styles and themes of her photography to this day.

《Venice, London, Shanghai, Cape Town Moscow, Tokyo, New York, Panama City Mexico City, Tel Aviv, Paris, Cairo,Athens, Nairobi, São Paolo, Seoul》

《Venice, London, Shanghai, Cape Town Moscow, Tokyo, New York, Panama City Mexico City, Tel Aviv, Paris, Cairo,Athens, Nairobi, São Paolo, Seoul》
Roger Eberhard
“Standard” series
2015—2016

For his “Standard” series, Roger Eberhard traveled to 32 countries on every continent. In each location, he booked a standard room at a Hilton hotel and took two photographs: one of the room’s interior, always from the same angle; and one of the landscape outside the room’s window. These two images form a diptych that highlights a design topology that can be found across the globe: the lamps, bed linens, and even the alarm clock all follow the same pattern. Only by looking at the scenery outside can one surmise the country or continent of the hotel. In most cases, even the landscape is strikingly similar, especially those in cities. Eberhard explores the question of a world increasingly homogenized by standardization. He invites audiences to consider why, even when we travel to foreign soils to experience different cultures, we still find ourselves staying in places that are invariably identical. Where do these standards come from, and who devises them? How can localism persist within this standardization?

《Evergreen Tower》

《Evergreen Tower》
Yeondoo Jung
2001

Yeondoo Jung’s “Evergreen Tower” series opens the front door onto a social experiment in contemporary downtown Seoul. In 2001, the artist photographed 31 family portraits in the living rooms of identical single family home apartment tower in the eastern part of the city. The uniformity of each living space seems to be a metaphor for our lives—each given certain tools and abilities, how do we decide to use them? The portraits are self-posed with each family preparing their most prized possession or those with which they identify most strongly, reminiscent (almost tragically) of practices in portraiture from generations past, we see the personality of each family and can begin to imagine the story of each nuclear unit. As we move on in the 21st century, this work leads us to wonder, will more of us live in such cookie-cutter spaces? And as our lives become more and more homogenous, is the only way to distinguish ourselves through the objects that represent us and the things we can buy?

《Skyping Soldier 4》

《Skyping Soldier 4》
Adam Ferguson
“Skyping Soldiers” series
2011

When we think of photographs of soldiers, what usually comes to mind are stiff portraits of men presenting themselves as paragons of discipline and bravery. Or we imagine pictures of men in action, taking terrible risks, with grit and fear etched on their faces. Photojournalist Adam Ferguson has instead chosen quiet moments to remind us of their humanity; he shows his soldiers off-duty, absorbed in communications with their loved ones back home… And yet, there seems to be a strange disconnect; the soldiers are looking but not speaking. Despite the “wonders” of modern modes of communications, his subjects seem very aware that they are not in the same rooms as their girlfriends, wives, or children. It is even possible that, given their experiences, they have seen things, or know things, that they don’t wish to share. What better illustration of the human dilemma: alone and together?

《Anonymous, Los Angeles》

《Anonymous, Los Angeles》
Katy Grannan
“Boulevard” series
2008

Katy Grannan’s subjects, caught in the blinding glare of a California sun, restless and seemingly on their way somewhere, (but where, she does not say) convey a mix of emotions. Grannan considers her pictures to be portraits. But why does she title them “anonymous,” if they are meant to portray specific people? The answer is that all her subjects have agreed to be photographed and have posed for her. She has therefore relinquished the power of the candid (or stolen) shot in favor of collusion with her subjects. It is the story of shared human experience that is important to Grannan, not so much the individual cases of struggle. Grannan is intrigued by common fates, by people who have resigned themselves to the next throw of the dice. This is not the glamorous California promoted by Hollywood. Human resilience is the photographer’s true subject. She searches for the traces of small victories and defeats etched on faces and on bodies.

《Work, Work, Work》

《Work, Work, Work》
Wang Qingsong
2012

Wang Qingsong’s Work, Work, Work may elicit a smile, as its apparent theatricality is evident. The picture is a curious mix of order and chaos, as people in hospital gowns apply themselves intently to some form of urban planning, even as they receive IV drips. Possibly we are observing the office of an architect or a governmental department. The pace seems feverish, as if the city they are conceiving is springing up almost as they work. The picture is, of course, pure theater; Wang has painstakingly built his set and posed his actors. For many years, this artist has used photography to critique the rapid change that is sweeping through Chinese society. Yet the critique has relevance for us all: where are the limits on change for modern (or postmodern) societies, and what limits do we need to set for our individual selves? Is work to be worshipped, at the expense of other human needs? Can we draw lines?

《Desiree and Karen, 68 Days》

《Desiree and Karen, 68 Days》
Dona Schwartz
“Expecting Parents” series
2006

Dona Schwartz’s two series “Expecting Parents” and “Empty Nesters” may be seen as interlocking parts of a whole, or as independent bodies of work. Schwartz takes as her subject parents and children, the first series dealing with couples anxiously (or serenely) awaiting the arrival of a tiny human being; the latter coming to terms with the moment when their child, now become an adult, flees the nest. The photographer, originally trained as an anthropologist, is extremely sensitive to the shifts in social relations: her couples are heterosexual, gay or lesbian, and of mixed race. They are posed in the rooms of their progeny, and the environments they have created speak volumes to their parental hopes and aspirations. Schwartz’s report is respectful and moving. We see our fellow beings struggling with the weight of their responsibilities; doing their best to give their children the best of themselves they can offer.

《Carpoolers #1》

《Carpoolers #1》
Alejandro Cartagena
“Carpoolers” series
2011—2012

Carpooling normally refers to middle-class suburbanites, rationalizing their commutes to work. Alejandro Cartagena’s use of the term is somewhat ironic, referring instead to the rough rides to work taken by workers in Mexico, whose personal finances do not allow for anything remotely comfortable, or for whom public transportation is not an option. The photographer has chosen a brilliant vantage point: a bridge over the highway, necessitating a keen eye and quick reflexes. But this is no game for Cartagena: the context in which he wishes his work to be seen and understood is the struggle for daily existence these workers face, one of uncertainty and paltry rewards. The work underlines the invisibility of a huge class of citizens to most of the wealthier drivers flying by, oblivious to the contents of those flatbed trucks.

《Manufacturing #17, Deda Chicken Processing Plant, Dehui City, Jilin Province, China》

《Manufacturing #17, Deda Chicken Processing Plant, Dehui City, Jilin Province, China》
Edward Burtynsky
“China” series
2005

Edward Burtynsky’s picture of a vast chicken processing plant in China speaks of the extraordinary collective nature of modern food production in a rapidly developing nation that must feed well over one billion people. The photographer has purposely centered the image with receding rows of identically clothed workers to the point where they vanish in the distance, as if to suggest the staggering scale of the collective effort. No single worker dominates, no individuality shines through: each worker is seen as a cog in a well-oiled, highly disciplined machine. The picture can be viewed simply as documentary evidence of a complex industrial system, one step of many in the food chain; or metaphorically as a sign of the tremendous challenges facing China as it positions itself for a leading role in 21st-century planetary civilization.

《Newark 8 Terminal B, Newark, NJ》

《Newark 8 Terminal B, Newark, NJ》
Jeffrey Milstein
“Airports” series
2016

Pilot-turned-photographer Jeffrey Milstein’s work is heavily influenced by a life-long passion for aviation and an attentive eye for architecture and social organization as seen directly from above. In his remarkable aerial photography, control is akin to the human micro-management of the natural environment—on one hand, our ability to radically alter physical topography to fit our needs, and on the other to overcome natural forces and gravity to move from point A to point B. This photograph of Newark Airport reveals itself as a textbook illustration of contemporary civilization’s degree of precise control over its environment. The earth has been paved over to facilitate smooth take-off and landing, outside the scene humans busy themselves reporting on weather conditions and monitoring potential turbulence so that we can arrive in Beijing from New York with scarcely an annoying bump in the ride. What remains of nature is purely decorative, sketched by a designer as little more than a graphic flourish in what will soon be his aerial-focused “composition” fixed in concrete and metal. This will eventually seen from the air by the millions who take to the sky every day—and by one observant photographer.

《site specific_MEXICO CITY 11》

《site specific_MEXICO CITY 11》
Olivo Barbieri
“site specific_ 03 13” series
2011

At first glance, Olivo Barbieri’s twin pictures of Mexico City seem unreal, as if they are brightly colored drawings submitted as a proposal for a colorful public monument. This sense is heightened by Barbieri’s purposeful suppression of detail on the busy streets below, as the flow of traffic works itself around the imposing obstacle, and by the fact that the towers seem to point in different directions in the two photographs. But the Torres de Satélite are real, and the up/down illusion is purely due to the photographer’s clever aerial positioning first to the north, and then to the south. The five concrete towers in triangular prism shapes were created by the sculptor Mathias Goeritz and the architect Luis Barragán in 1957. Their minimalism and impressive verticality are meant to trigger feelings of hope for the thousands of mobile citizens which see them each day. The towers became a symbol of a new type of urban monumental sculpture that broke with conventional architectural traditions and pointed toward a utopian future for the exploding megalopolis.

《Las Vegas》

《Las Vegas》
Lee Friedlander
“America by Car” series
2002

For millennia, mankind moved at a human pace, on average .5 mph. On horseback, we managed to double our speed, a revolutionary step in societal evolution. Today, the family car typically boasts 170 hp, which we take for granted and even sometimes complain about. We also take for granted the phenomenal freedom of mobility the automobile gives us. And yet, once we’re inside these machines, looking out, they become largely invisible to us. In the series America by Car, Lee Friedlander redresses the balance. In his travels across most of the fifty states, he has chosen to frame the sights which capture his imagination with the artificial frame of the car’s interior: windshield, side window, steering wheel, mirrors, and parts of the dashboard. Is this not how most of us encounter most of the world? Motels, national parks, roadside signs, city skylines… quintessential American landscapes all, are seen through the “aperture” of the machine in which we spend so much of our daily lives.

《Excellences & Perfections》

《Excellences & Perfections》
Amalia Ulman
2014

Excellences & Perfections is an Instagram performance that exposes vehicles of persuasion on the internet. In 2014, Argentinian artist Amalia Ulman used the popular social media platform to construct a fictitious self online. Having researched meticulously the online presences of global “super bloggers” and Korean pop icons, the artist identified brands and lifestyle choices as the markers of social class and character by which young women increasingly define themselves on the Internet. The performance is divided into three parts, each one distinctly presenting a persona to the outside world who would be defined by markers of class, physical traits, and characteristics, such as the changing color of her hair, the food she eats, the way she herself and others treat her body, and the way she spends her leisure time. This theatricalization brilliantly addresses how gender and identity is influenced and constructed by consumerism; how each of us “naturally” builds a “self-actualized” persona we choose to share with the world through the Internet. The image we present to the world is not our reality, it is one we cultivate, curate, and carefully edit. In Ulman’s work, photography is once again caught between its role to capture images from the “real world” and its tremendous potential for fiction. While live, the Instagram transformation of Amalia Ulman—from an art student, to a plastic surgery enhanced call-girl, to reformed yoga and organic foods lover—was perceived by many as the real life of the artist only further attesting to the rampant potential for untruths and expectations surrounding images in our extremely mediated online society.

《Breakout space, Transportation finance bank》

《Breakout space, Transportation finance bank》
Andreia Alves de Oliviera
“The Politics of the Office” series
2014

Andreia Alves de Oliviera is interested in the modern arts of persuasion, but prefers to go behind the scenes to see where the strategies are conceived, executed, refined, and evaluated. In her series “The Politics of the Office,” shot over three years, she accesses the workspaces of advertising agencies, financial institutions like specialized banks and hedge funds, law firms and brand consultants, appropriating the catchy terms they have devised for their trendy spaces—a “lookout room,” a “breakout space,” “hot-desking,” and the like. De Oliviera is not interested in the specific individuals who work in these spaces. Indeed, by only ever photographing the spaces devoid of people, she suggests that “who” these people are is immaterial; individuals will come and go, be hired and fired; the persuasion industry will remain. Of more interest than the characters are the furniture and its configuration.

《JAP5011-2016》

《JAP5011-2016》
Patrick Weidmann
2016

Patrick Weidmann is not interested in simple documentation of the landscape of persuasion, such as billboards and signs: 60% off! Free! Improved!, or in racks of luxury goods on the shelves of designer shops. His interests lie in the deeper structures of consumer psychology—what might be called the visual language of persuasion. He asks us to consider: what principles draw us to consume en masse? Why are we drawn to certain products and not to others? The glitter of light on plastic and metal, the seduction of sinuous form, the smooth feel of cool surfaces... Weidmann’s close croppings obscure scale and confound meaning: just what are those bizarre things filling his frame? Furthermore, he blinds us with confusing reflections, plunging us into a world of dazzling artifice. He provides no solace, offering instead a warning: blind materialism leads only to a dead-end.

《Times Square, New York》

Times Square, New York》
Robert Walker
2010

Marketeers, promoters, politicians, propagandists, advertisers… Almost everyone everywhere is bombarded daily with “messages” encouraging us to buy this or that product, subscribe to this or that magazine, vote for this or that candidate, adhere to this or that ideology. They prey subtly on our desires, our fears, our vanities, and our pride. Robert Walker has for many years focused his camera on that epicenter of incessant, strident collective messaging—New York City’s ever-pulsing Times Square—observing keenly the interplay between the monumentally scaled flashing signs and their moving targets: the tiny human figures of the tourists constantly streaming through this glittering playground, spellbound by all the dazzle. Do they not recognize that, for a brief moment, they are part of the spectacular tableau? Walker suggests we are all complicit in the theater of persuasion.

《Duplication》

《Duplication》
Han Sungpil
“Façade” series
2010

Throughout the history of art, two veins have been in constant competition—a dialogue between realism and idealism. How to achieve the ideal amidst the grime of the contemporary city machine? Han Sungpil’s work from the series “Façade” indirectly addresses this duality, using the modern cityscape as his tableau. An observant photographer, he has travelled the world contemplating the oddity of architectural façades and painted scenes that can be found on tarps and posters of our world’s cities, used to conceal construction sites and unsightly building renovations. Sometimes these large-scale images are as simple as a photograph of the building that existed beforehand and will once again inhabit the space, and sometimes they are more romantic: a trompe l’oeil, or a fantastical work. For the artist, these façades have the potential to be “new memories” within the real space. The prevalence of this practice across cultures leads us to question a seemingly global obsession to hide from the less pleasant, practical aspects of our civilization behind an idealized or glossy image of our existence. The photograph, framing this juxtaposition of real and replica, emphasizes the blurring of the real and imaginary. It also leads us to contemplate photography as a medium—fundamentally, also always with an original and a duplicate.

《Diergaarde Blijdorp Rotterdam, The Netherlands》

《Diergaarde Blijdorp Rotterdam, The Netherlands》
Sheng-Wen Lo
“White Bear” series
2016

The series “White Bear” documents polar bears living in zoos around the world. Though photographer Sheng-Wen Lo chose the polar bear as his subject, his interest lies not in any specific species, but rather in exploring the problems and paradoxes of wild animals raised in artificial environs for the purpose of being viewed. To confine these animals, manmade structures, including grasslands, pools, fake mountains, painted icebergs, artificial seals, yachts, and even skyscrapers, meld notions of nature, the home, and the stage. These sites, along with their protective fences and the animals they pen in, come together to form an uncanny spectacle. Lo has noted, “As natural habitats are being destroyed, it may be reasonable to keep certain species in controlled environments; however, I think it is questionable whether some results are a true reflection of the original motive. The existence of captive white bears embodies this ambiguity. Promoted as exotic tourist-magnets, the bears stand at the point where the institutions’ mission of conservation, research, and education is challenged by their interest in entertainment.”

《Piscinao de Ramos》

《Piscinao de Ramos》
Massimo Vitali
2012

Massimo Vitali’s photograph of the blinding white sand beach bathers from Brazil’s Piscinao de Ramos speaks of a global collective culture of commodified leisure. The photographer has chosen not to focus on the beach itself, but instead on the crowds—bringing his horizon line nearly to the top edge of the composition, thus reversing the expected perspective of a vast ocean stretching to the horizon. Instead, we are presented with seemingly endless bright white sand sprinkled with the multi-colored pink, yellow, blue, and green dots of sunbathers. Each year, millions of us still take pleasure in this simple escape from our daily routines, conforming to a collective sense of satisfaction of “getting away from it all” while unconsciously consenting to a particular entitlement and impressions of novelty and affluence.

《Film Set (“Free State of Jones”), Battle of Corinth, Bush, Louisiana》

《Film Set (“Free State of Jones”), Battle of Corinth, Bush, Louisiana》
An-My Lê
“The Silent General” series
2015

Since the commercial introduction of television in the late 1930s, through the lens of a storyteller we can experience any multitude of new adventures from the comfort of our home. An-My Lê’s work from the series Silent General, is taken on the set of a Civil War-era film about a Confederate Army deserter, Free State of Jones (2016). This image, like so many of Lê’s works, boomerangs through time and space. The imagined past and present sit side-by-side begging the question: when does history end and the present begin? The popularity of war stories and period drama in popular culture would in some ways suggest though that perhaps history never actually ends and that the raw materials of America’s bloodiest war—race, class, labor, and capital—are still deeply enmeshed in the physical landscape and the fabric of American society today.

《Picote power station: chart for scheduling the periodic maintenance of the generating sets》

《Picote power station: chart for scheduling the periodic maintenance of the generating sets》
Edgar Martins
“The Time Machine: An Incomplete & Semi-Objective Survey of Hydropower Stations” series
2011

This photograph is from Edgar Martins’ series “The Time Machine,” a topographic survey of hydroelectric power plants. The artist explored twenty power stations throughout Portugal, most of which were built between the 1950s and 1970s as the country experienced rapid growth and social change. These complexes were built to house hundreds of workers, but now, thanks to centralized computer systems, they are operated by only a few employees. These buildings testify to this generation’s technological idealism, one in which man and machine would prosper together. The maintenance chart seen here, by contrast, implies the mechanization that makes human labor more and more irrelevant in our world today.

《Untitled [Police School Classroom, Aylmer]》

《Untitled [Police School Classroom, Aylmer]》
Lynne Cohen
2003

Lynne Cohen took this photograph in a police school in Canada, where trainees roleplay domestic disturbance cases using paintball guns and mannequins. Nothing in the photograph was changed from how she found the scene. Cohen was struck by the uncanny drama of the props and poses. As she notes, “I love how formal and arranged the mess looks: the mannequin with green trousers, the stain on the floor that goes up the wall, the way the spots on the curtain seem to have a symbiotic relationship with the paintball splatter on the mannequin’s jacket. It’s like the spots have escaped and attacked it.” As with many of her works, there is a deadpan quality to this image, neutrally presenting a strange social phenomenon with no overt emotionality.

《Recruit》

《Recruit》
Hiroshi Okamoto
2014

“I want to die.” So read an email sent to photographer Hiroshi Okamoto in 2013 by his close friend Yo Toshino. Okamoto was inspired to document Toshino’s job hunt as the latter prepared to graduate university. In Japan, more than half a million students compete in a rigorous, highly structured employment process every year, a struggle that can determine the course of their entire lives. The pressure is enormous, at times leading to mental illness. The photographic series “Recruit” records just one such story.
Hiroshi Okamoto is a visual storyteller interested in the relationship between the individual and society. In university, he studied anthropology and social sciences, and it is through this lens that he captures his subjects.

《Don Sapatkin's Desk, A Week Before The Move, 4:43pm》

《Don Sapatkin's Desk, A Week Before The Move, 4:43pm》
Will Steacy
“Deadline” series
2012

For his series “Deadline,” Will Steacy was given unrestricted access to the newsroom and printing plant of The Philadelphia Inquirer for five years. His photographs document the decline of the newspaper industry in the digital age. As Steacy writes, “Having shed forty percent of its workforce in the past decade, newspapers are America’s fastest shrinking industry, yet more than half of American adults know little to nothing about the financial struggles that have eviscerated newsrooms.” To the artist, the death of the newspaper heralds far greater dangers—where the press once served as a check on corporations, politicians, and other powerful institutions, we now risk losing this key pillar of society. The industry is also a synecdoche for the shrinking middle-class workforce as the world enters an economy of automation and information technology.

《TVs from Craigslist》

《TVs from Craigslist》
Penelope Umbrico
2008—ongoing

Penelope Umbrico photographs intriguing yet impersonal inventories of things we love but ultimately discard. The image here is a collage of blurry portraits within black squares. These are images the artist downloaded from Craig’s List, an American classifieds website, of used televisions for sale, from which she cropped and enlarged only the screens. Though they are purely utilitarian, commercial photos, they quite literally reflect the subjectivity and individuality of the photographer or seller. Likely without realizing it, the sellers have left their silhouettes on the dark screens of these unwanted objects. It is a gesture that seems private and intimate, yet it is available for all to see. For each photo in this series, Umbrico produced two editions: one would be sold in a gallery as an artwork, while the other would be sold on Craig’s List for the price of the original TV. She sees the near infinite amount of images online as a rich archive of materials and a pathway to understand society today, and in this way her works embody a wide range of contemporary dichotomies: consumer and producer, materiality and immateriality, individual expression and collective will.

《San Diego - Tijuana XI, Frontera USA-Mexico》 Pablo Lopez-Luz

《San Diego - Tijuana XI, Frontera USA-Mexico》
Pablo Lopez-Luz
“Frontera” series
2015

Pablo Lopez-Luz proposes a new perspective on societal breakdown, targeting the Mexico-US border in this work from his series “Frontera” (2014-15). The project focuses not on the many personal stories of hope and heartbreak that unfold at this infamous border, but takes a birds-eye view—stepping back and photographing both the US and Mexican territories divided by the physical edifice of a wall. In San Diego - Tijuana XI, Frontera USA-Mexico, no political references can be identified, only one continuous landscape of rolling hills. This unusual distance from the partition makes it almost impossible for the viewer to distinguish from which side of the wall they are looking, demonstrating the nonsense of such human artifice in the greater context of geography.

《SOUP: Nurdles Ingredients; nurdles –the industrial raw material of plastic collected from six different beaches.》

《SOUP: Nurdles Ingredients; nurdles –the industrial raw material of plastic collected from six different beaches.》
Mandy Barker
“SOUP” series
2011

“It is estimated that of the millions of tons of plastic ever produced, almost 80 percent is still in existence, in the sea or in landfill sites.” So writes Mandy Barker, who confronts audiences with the ecological devastation of plastic pollution through her photographs. Her “SOUP” series refers to a common term for plastic debris floating throughout the ocean. All the plastics photographed are salvaged from beaches around the world, and the works’ titles record the ingredients in each image. These poignant photographs operate through contradiction, juxtaposing the aesthetic beauty of the objects with the disturbing reality they reflect. She hopes viewers might reflect on how every one of us contributes to this ongoing crisis, while raising the most urgent question: What can be done to save our planet?

《disCONNEXION, A14》

《disCONNEXION, A14》
Xing Danwen
2002—2003

Xing Danwen chose to tackle one of the collective marks humankind leaves on the natural landscape in her sinuous compositions from “disCONNEXION.” On average, our cellphones are obsolete in two years, and we buy new ones at the store or online. Then what happens? Where do they go? Along the coast of southern China in the early 2000s, hundreds of thousands of workers made their living by dismantling and burning piles of computer and electronic components in order to extract bits of copper, brass, aluminium, and zinc for resale, operating in rough environmental and social conditions. Technological waste is one outcome of a global increase in wealth and consumerism. Xing Danwen’s photographs are powerful documents of this globally scaled problem. She has chosen to portray this waste intimately, even somewhat aesthetically: discarded telephones, electronic wires, and computer parts… each pile of trash becomes a composition of line and form, transporting it from its specific context. These images could be from anywhere. With the incredible renewal rate and lack of recycling for our handheld devices, and electronics generally, these large-scale photographic works convey the immensity of our global e-wastelands.

《Idomeni》

《Idomeni》
Richard Mosse
“Heat Maps” series
2016

Idomeni comes from Richard Mosse’s series “Heat Maps.” In this group of works, the artist uses thermographic photography to document the plight of refugees and migrants today. Mosse stitches together hundreds of frames taken at a high eye level of different camps and other significant sites from the refugee crisis. These thermal panoramas, with their myriad focuses and vanishing points, depict these scenes in extreme detail. The Idomeni camp seen here was in Greece near the border with Macedonia. It was an unofficial compound that formed when European countries began closing their borders, leaving more than ten thousand migrants stuck in Greece. As an informal camp, government services were sparse, and it has since been closed and its inhabitants relocated. Mosse aims to highlight the harsh struggles these refugees endure and their struggles that often go ignored.

《Field (North Ward Estes Oil Field, Ward County, Texas)》

《Field (North Ward Estes Oil Field, Ward County, Texas)》
Mishka Henner
2013

As with many of Mishka Henner’s works, this photograph of an oil field in Texas is a digital composite of hundreds of high-resolution satellite images. Through this distinctive process, his works achieve a monumental size even as they are rendered in extremely high detail. Henner is interested in how new platforms like Google Earth allow us to visualize industrial infrastructures that would be impossible to see in full on the ground, and thereby consider the environmental effects of industry. The geometric patterns that result transform abstract systems of capitalism and industry into concrete images. To Henner, oil is at the very core of American society. Its effects can be felt everywhere, inextricable from America’s history and its values.

《Ergol #1, S1B clean room, Arianespace, Guiana Space Center [CGS], Kourou, French Guiana》

《Ergol #1, S1B clean room, Arianespace, Guiana Space Center [CGS], Kourou, French Guiana》
Vincent Fournier
“Space Project” series
2011

Vincent Fournier has nurtured a particular love for the idea of space travel. Although he has photographed many of its most representative places, including the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center of Star City in Russia; the Baikonour Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan; the Space Centers of NASA in Cape Canaveral in the United States; and the Arianespace in French Guiana, among many more, his interest is not documentary, though the images are certainly rooted in reality. It is instead the dream aspect which fascinates him, a collective dream he believes he shares with many others. Here he has photographed the astronauts dwarfed by their high-tech environments, ready for their leap off the earth, but nonetheless tethered to it.

《“A Guide to the Flora and Fauna of the World” series》

《“A Guide to the Flora and Fauna of the World” series》
Robert Zhao Renhui
2013

A former animal activist, Robert Zhao Renhui has dedicated his artistic career to exploring questions of humanity’s relationship to nature. A selection of works from his project the “Encyclopaedia of Flora and Fauna of the World” (2013) alert us to the futuristic, genetically modified species that are already among us. These plants and animals have been designed to better adapt to the logic of distribution systems and codes of modern aesthetics: unbreakable eggs can be tossed into trucks and planes, saving time; tattooed fish fulfill the desire for a colorful pet. Zhao’s complete project comprises 55 real species of plants and animals, often ignored by traditional scientific discourse, that have been affected by aesthetic, genetic, evolutionary, or ecologic influences, all displayed in a colorful alternative encyclopedia. Presented as a typology, each species is isolated on a neutral, vibrant, multi-colored background. By choosing to not show these common plants and animals in a naturalistic environment, the artist emphasizes the artificial origins of these species, designed for study, commercial resources, their aesthetic component, or our entertainment.

《f.a.s.t.》

《f.a.s.t.》
Michael Najjar
“outer space” series
2017

What could be more futuristic than looking toward otherworldly civilizations? Photographer and astronaut-in-training Michael Najjar’s work f.a.s.t (2017) depicts the largest astronomical radio telescope on earth. In 2016, China built this staggeringly large instrument called the “Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope” in the remote and barely accessible southern mountainous region of the country. It can be tilted by computer to change the focus on different parts of the universe. Radio telescopes use a large parabolic dish to collect radio waves from distant sources such as pulsars, black holes, and gravitational waves. However, one of the main objectives of the instrument is to detect interstellar communication signals—signals from alien civilizations. Searching for alien life means searching for the source of life in general and confronting a fundamental question facing humankind: where do we come from? We might well imagine that one day the first extraterrestrial communication signals will hit the surface of this spherical telescope before being broadcast across the planet. The inconceivable size of “f.a.s.t” may also be seen as a metaphor for the immeasurability of time and space.

《Clock Tower, Brooklyn, XXXVI: June 16, 2009》

《Clock Tower, Brooklyn, XXXVI: June 16, 2009》
Vera Lutter
2009

Time is a central theme of Vera Lutter’s photography, both in the subjects she captures and in the methods she employs. For this work and others, she uses a camera obscura, a room-sized black box with a single pinhole that projects an image onto a wall, which in turn is captured by photographic paper over a slow exposure. The process creates a negative image that the artist does not reproduce; every photograph is unique.
The series of works to which this piece belongs was created at 1 Main Street in Brooklyn, a historic apartment building topped by four glass clocks that look out on each cardinal direction. During the day, the clocks illuminate the building; at night, the light from inside shines out. The long exposure necessary to produce these photographs results in a literal imprint of time through light, overlaid on different facets of the urban landscape.