The human need to gather and organize may seem self-evident, but we are not always fully aware of it. We gather, exchange, collect, and sort, often by instinctive compulsion. We crave an interaction with others and things, and often steer our decision-making based on this common goal. From where comes our desire to find like things and sort them into groups? Here, four photographers approach this phenomenon in different ways, this propensity to collect and arrange.

David Ellingsen’s human figures are gathered in an expanse of evening sky and sea. They seem naturally placed there, yet it is clear their meeting is constructed.

Kristopher Grunert ascensionofdumontdune

Kris Grunert’s lights play with our familiar traditions of ornamenting nature as an invitation. He floats lights aglow in a winter grove as we would seasonal light or hang lanterns. The fact that they, and we, do not quite belong there adds allure and intrigue, and invites us to collect around the image, even if we cannot recognize its setting.


Kevin Lanthier’s image of crows on the highway reflects on our widest organization of space: roads and highways. He empties them of traffic and then traverses them with gathered, and gathering, crows. The imposed lines of our patterns are broken by the organic lines of a natural order.


Laara Cerman’s meticulously placed dandelions highlight the need to arrange our surroundings as a way of embracing them. We manicure gardens, organize living spaces and train animals. Cerman reduces this process to its essence by gathering plant materials into larger versions of their own patterns of shape, movement and practice.

Be the subjects flora or fauna, living humans, their essence or remains, these images leave no doubt that we unconsciously take what we find in our environment, collect, store and categorize in order to express and define a part of ourselves.