Anna Skladmann Varvara in her home cinema, Moscow, Russia, 2010.
Guillaume Bonn Maids prepare a room for a guest in a wealthy Kenyan household, 2011.
Guillaume Bonn A chef from a nearby luxury lodge waits to treat guests to champagne after their hot air balloon excursion, Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya, 2012.
Guillaume Herbaut Tong, 29, poses for her wedding pictures at Princess Studio in Shanghai, China, 2013.
Juliana Sohn A legless cleaner wipes shines the stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, 2005.
Matthew Pillsbury / Courtesy Benrubi Gallery Customers pay a $1,600 fee just to enter Tokyo's Robot Restaurant, 2014.
Michael Light "Roma Hills" guard-gated homes, Henderson, NV, 2012.
Paolo Woods and Gabriele Galimberti A man floats in the 57th floor swimming pool of the Marina Bay Sands Hotel, which faces Singapore's financial district, 2013.
Paolo Woods and Gabriele Galimberti Christian Pauli, the general manager of an art handling company that sets up vaults all over the world, opens a high security vault at the Singapore Freeport. One of the most secure places on earth, the Freeport has biometric recognition, more than 200 cameras, vibration detection technology, nitrogen fire extinguishers, and seven-ton doors, 2013.
Zed Nelson A concrete wall around a private home in Cape Town, South Africa, 2014.

The One Percent

By Myles Little

There is a long history of photography that denounces poverty, such as Jacob Riis’ documentation of nineteenth century New York City slums or Mary Ellen Mark’s depiction of Seattle’s homeless children. And yet, few Americans truly understand wealth. When Harvard Business School asked Americans how much they thought CEOs earn relative to the average worker, they answered, for the most part, 30 to one. The reality? It’s over 350 to one.

In curating “One Percent: Privilege in a Time of Global Inequality,” I gathered images that examine global wealth. I used Edward Steichen's 1955 exhibition, “The Family of Man,” as a response point. The 500-piece gallery showcased people from all over the world, categorized by family, religion, and work. It celebrated the optimism that dominated the postwar era and argued for, in Steichen’s own words, “the essential oneness of mankind.”

But as inequality reaches historic levels, I find this thesis less and less viable. Consider, for example, that the six heirs to the Walmart fortune own more wealth than the bottom 42 percent of Americans combined. “One percent” is a response to Steichen’s project. It offers images on similar themes, but in the context of extreme wealth. While “The Family of Man” was a sprawling, varied, and democratic mix of images by both known and unknown photographers, I took an approach befitting the exclusive spirit of my topic. I selected a small number of polished, well-crafted, medium format images by some of today’s best photographers, depicting how the wealthy spend on education, health, and leisure.

MYLES LITTLE is Senior Photo Editor at TIME.

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