Spend enough time in a city and you’ll catch its rhythm. Some urban centers pulsate to the point of sensory overload, fueled by fast walkers and conspicuous consumption; others are muted by tree-lined streets and a leisurely tempo. Some appear to be deeply systematic, while others feel like a free-for-all. Rhythms can shift depending on the time of day, or season, or neighborhood. One thing is universal: A city is constantly in motion.
For millennia, city-dwellers comprised a small percentage of humanity, with most people living on farms or in villages. But after two centuries of industrialization and rapid urbanization, more than half of the world’s population today resides in a city.
The following photos offer glimpses of life in some of the world’s most captivating metropolises, as observed by 26 photographers across six continents. We see cities at all times of day and night, from the dim predawn light to the glow of a lone streetlamp helping someone find their way home.