Civilisation, a new photography exhibition and accompanying book, is an ambitious attempt to document the human experience of the modern world
What does the 21st century look like? What are the resonant images of a civilisation that aspires to be global? These kinds of questions were the starting point for a project that formed in the mind of William A Ewing, who had been a museum director, curator of international exhibitions and writer about photography for nearly 40 years.
Every epoch and generation had sought to define itself, Ewing believed, but how would you go about defining our own dizzying times? The exhibition that represents his tentative conclusions will open at the National Museum in Seoul, South Korea, later this year. It will then tour the globe – Beijing, Melbourne and Montreal are its first stops – for what Ewing hopes will be a decade-long journey. The exhibition consists of the work of 140 of the world’s most celebrated photographers – from Edward Burtynsky to Cindy Sherman – each of whom is represented by the images that best seemed to answer the questions above.