This story was originally published July 31, 2015.
"The 1%" gained traction after the crash of 2008 and the Occupy Wall Street movement (rallying under the slogan "We are the 99%") that sprung up its wake. But in truth, wealth inequality has been growing for decades. Currently, the richest 400 Americans control about as much wealth as the poorest 150 million.
Moreover, most people don't realize quite how big the wealth gap is. In a Harvard Business School and Chulalongkorn University study published June 2015, subjects in the United States estimated that a CEO was paid 30 times as much as an unskilled worker. They were wrong by a factor of 10: in America, a CEO makes 354 times what an unskilled worker does.
Myles Little, a photo editor at Time, has set out to document this gap in a new exhibit, "1% Privilege In A Time Of Global Inequality." After two years culling thousands of images, Little edited the collection down to less than 30 to be showcased around the world, starting in Pingyao, China this September. The photos in the exhibit are a gorgeous, luxe group, highlighting the wealth of one class and the stark rubble of another, making a statement on the baffling income disparity between the haves and have-nots.
"We think we understand wealth in this country because we see somebody who is famous, like an athlete, and know how much they're paid," Little says. "The highest paid athlete in the world last year was Floyd Mayweather. He made $105 million. That's a lot of money. That’s our general understanding of a super-wealthy person."
In that same year, however, there was another incredibly wealthy person. His name is Ken Griffin. He was the highest-paid hedge fund manager in 2014. His salary? $1.3 billion dollars. "Yes billion, with a 'B,'" Little says. "And yet, he is totally unknown to most people."
Of course, income inequality isn't just present in America — the photos explore the homes of the wealthy in Russia, luxury lodges in Kenya, and the incredible growth in Shanghai. It also shows the absence of all that. "Elegance and degradation turn out to be neighbors," author Geoff Dyer wrote for a statement accompanying the exhibit. The incredible rise of the wealthy only serves to underscore the lack of wealth in other areas, after all.
"What I want to do is inspire a conversation about economic fairness," Little says. "Ask ourselves, what are our priorities and values? Do we want to celebrate somebody who makes a tremendous amount of money simply from having a tremendous amount of money already? Or do we want to celebrate people who work hard for a basic living, despite great odds?"