The novelist Tom Wolfe used the expression, ‘the Hive’, to refer to the frenetic social life of New York, but the metaphor of the beehive works equally well for any great human agglomeration. The 21st Century has marked the definitive end of the long history of rural dominance: for the first time in homo sapiens’ 200,000 years of existence, more people live in urban centers than outside them. The ever-larger urban organisms that we have developed are not only passive hives of day-to-day living, but active hives of learning, production and thinking. Photographers, too, are urbanites, delighting in the pictorial possibilities of the unceasing ebb and flow of crowds.

5 | Hive

Pablo López Luz

Vista Aerea de la Ciudad de Mexico, XIII


from series Terrazo

Courtesy the artist

In the twenty-first 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 sixth biggest megalopolis is greater Mexico City, with its population of around 22 million. How does a photographer evoke such staggering numbers in a single image? In Luz’s case, he does it from the air. As far as the eye can see, waves of humanity wash across the landscape. By denying us a horizon, Luz amplifies the suggestion of an infinite urban sea.

6 | Hive

Michael Wolf

Architecture of Density #91


from series Architecture of Density

Courtesy M97 Shanghai

The late Michael Wolf was known for his photography of great Asian cities like Hong Kong, with their massive housing projects and dense social interaction hinting at societal strain, if not actual crisis. Wolf suggests a vision of the future for all human beings as we climb towards almost ten billion humans in 2050. Although ruthless logic, order and rationality predominate in our urban plans for mass housing, Wolf finds beauty in their cliff-like facades. A closer look at his imagery even hints at a sense of pleasure deriving from the aesthetics we humans cannot help but bring to even the most mundane structures.

7 | Hive

Candida Höfer

Augustiner Chorherrenstift Sankt Florian III 2014


Courtesy the artist and Galerie Thomas Zander, Colonia

Höfer’s library of the Abbey Augustiner Chorherrenstift at St Florian, Austria, dating from the year 819, may seem like a strange choice for an exhibition on twenty-first- century civilisation. But this library reminds us that our current civilisation often values, incorporates and conserves the wisdom of the past – or ignores it at its peril. Each of the 150,000 volumes in this library, maintained for three centuries, can be considered a building block of our evolving planetary civilisation. In them are the historical keys to the sciences and technologies, the arts and philosophies that have guided collective human effort since human history has been recorded.

8 | Hive

Cyril Porchet



from series Crowd

Courtesy the artist

Porchet has chosen not to title his astonishing crowd scene (one of a series on huge crowds, none of which bears a title), where brightly garbed human beings swarm like insects. ‘Look and marvel’, the artist seems to be saying. The vibrant colours suggest we are witnessing a celebration, possibly a religious rite, while the swirling currents are evidence of shared excitement. 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 and water. These ordering forces of civilisation permit such mass expression and safely-contained spontaneity.

9 | Hive

Massimo Vitali

CEAGESP Sao Paulo Analog Digital Diptych, [shown here: Lightjet print]


Courtesy the artist

In a world ever more celebratory of individualism, Massimo Vitali is first and foremost interested in the collective life: crowds relaxing on beaches, or packed onto a dance floor. And, as we see here in Sao Paulo, getting on with the business of buying and selling the necessities of life. Vitali’s large-format imagery rewards viewers who are prepared to look carefully: beyond the sheer pleasure of the riotous colour, form and texture, we note social encounters, like a seller throwing a watermelon to another vendor. ‘My photography comes from absolute matter-of-fact situations but also from a deep curiosity that I possess for people, for what they do and how they

11 | Hive

Alfred Ko

A walk in the Park – Central


Courtesy the artist

Ko has made the city the subject of his study for many years, and he admits to being enchanted by the aging colonial architecture, its buildings and its monuments, as well as the city’s dazzling colours. At the same time he sees its headlong rush to develop, develop, develop!… as an endless quest for material wealth which will never truly satisfy its restless inhabitants. The famous ‘Umbrella Movement’ of 2014 was both a reflection of this unease, and a desire to find another path. For Ko the park is a temporary refuge, where people can stroll for a moment without a destination

12 | Hive

Roger Eberhard

from the top and from left to right

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


from series Standard

Courtesy Morat Galerie

Eberhard travelled to thirty-two countries and every continent, booking each time a standard room in a Hilton hotel, photographing both the view and the room itself. He wonders, ‘Why do we travel to foreign countries and cultures and yet stay at a place that always looks the same?’ Indeed, why bother to travel at all in an age of Google Maps (and Street View)? With each passing year, the world becomes ever more homogeneous, bland and anonymous; increasingly we act alike

13 | Hive

Philippe Chancel

Construction of the Burj Khalifa Tower, Dubai


from series Datazone

Courtesy the artist and Melanie Rio Fluency

Chancel’s depiction of the construction of what is (perhaps only briefly) the tallest building in the world, Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, cannot help but remind us of the work of industrious ants. Certain species of ants construct towers that, relatively speaking, would be comparable in size to some of the world’s tallest buildings! Like ants, humans can only erect such structures through huge collective efforts – by harvesting human intelligence. Humans never cease playing the ‘tallest building’ game, with cities competing for the skills of a coterie of star architects, hoping to gain prestige – and its corresponding financial rewards.