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© Ruddy Roye

PDX Design Week wrapped up last weekend. Before I moved out of the city, I was asked to do a guest post for the PDXDW blog. I don’t know much about design, so I wrote about photographers that are making good use of emerging technologies or commenting on our brave new world dominated by emerging and automated technologies.

Thanks to Taryn Cowart for her assistance getting it published.

With some line-editing, I crosspost the listicle below.



Good photography is good vibes. Often, even bad photography is good vibes. The world needs Seflies, SnapChat cheekiness, cat GIFs, and Doge bombs. However, sometimes, we have to search out the good stuff. We need to look around and ask what’s at stake. Frankly, there’s not a lot resting on your cellphone pictures — they’re not changing the world. When the technologies and file formats with which they were made are obsolete, no-one will care if your phone snaps are lost forever. Least of all you?

When we talk about art, journalism and photography we should be able to single projects out and to define worth. Some creative endeavors are world-changing. I want to give a nod to photographers and artists working with images who inform us about the world and some of its urgent issues. As users and consumers, I want to believe we can leverage rapid publishing and sharing for political and social improvement.


Ruddy Roye was the first photographer to really stake his style on the meaningful caption. He ditched the hashtags and asked real people some real questions. Based in New York most of his portraits are of people in his neighborhood and jollies around the Big Apple. His feed drips with humanity and reveals stories you couldn’t imagine. This is the REAL Humans OF New York! Also, I like to credit Roye for landing the fatal blow to the snarky #TLDR hashtag.


© EverydayAfrica


Peter DiCampo and fellow journalist Austin Merrill (both white American) set up the Everyday Africa after years of reporting from the continent and witnessing nothing but sensational and scary images of war, tragedy and the like. What about the normal everyday stuff? In an attempt to make the most of boring daily things, DiCampo and a wide cadre of collaborator quickly put together a simple, illuminating, sometimes colorful, and intimate Instagram feed. It’s political but not difficult. Okay, so it’s a free-for-all that promotes aesthetically ordinary pictures, but I’ll take neoliberal relativism over neocolonialist manipulation every day of the week.

EverydayAfrica spurned dozens of loose collective of photographers who set up EverydayMiddleEast, EverydayAsia, EverydayIran and even EverydayBronx. Instagram sponsored an Everyday “Summit” at the 2014 Photoville Festival and ponied up cash to fly in contributors from all corners of the globe. These guys are much better IG-movement than the creepy Christians making VSCO lifestyle shots to pair with their #blessed affirmations and bible quotes.

Watch out though: EverydayUSA has some of the best photojournalists under it’s belt. Photo-industry-folk reckon EverydayUSA will soon eclipse all the other accounts, at which point the whole Everyday movement may have announced its death. Get on this young movement while it’s still fresh and focused on countries other than the one you live in.


© Mishka Henner


If there’s a controversial topic Mishka Henner hasn’t produced a body of work on, he’s probably in his studio, right now, making it. From censorship, to prostitution in the Mediterranean, from military bases to big-ag food production, from war to big oil, Henner doesn’t shy away from tough topics. His skill is to do so without really leaving his studio. Henner is one of the cleverest, canniest and hardest working artists dealing with Google and the machine age of image-making.

He winds people up with his methods that are anathema to photo-purists but what else is there to do with available imagery if not to capture, ‘shop and frame it in political terms. Google is the all seeing eye that doesn’t care.


© Tomas Van Houtryve


The Bureau of Investigative Journalism estimates American operated drones have killed between 2,296 and 3,718 people, as many as 957 of them civilians. That’s a whole lot of killing.

The program of U.S. airstrikes which began in 2002, but was only publicly acknowledged in 2012 is a remote war driven by a remote technology. Belgian photographer Tomas Van Houtryve decided the best way to grab Americans’ attention to the issue was to show them how drone attacks would appear in America.

There’s no shortage of projects about drones to get us thinking about the issue. John Vigg has his Google surveilled drone research labs and airports; Jamie Bridle traced a drone shadow in Washington D.C. last year and launched Dronestagram to populate social media sites with satellite views of drone strike sites; Trevor Paglen has photographed drones at distance; and Raphaella Dallaporta took a drone to Afghanistan under the guise of an archaeological survey.

Most recently Not A Bug Splat made a splash. Cheeky and powerful the project installed massive portraits of children in regions subject to U.S. drone strikes, with the intent of pricking the conscience of remote U.S. drone operators stationed in Nevada about to bring the hammer of destruction down on that Waziristan village.


Screenshot of Josh Begley’s Prison Map


Data artist Josh Begley specializing in scraping images from publicly available sources. He then creates App and websites to publish the info and produce push notifications you can’t avoid.

For his project Prison Map, Begley took the GPS coordinates of every prison, jail and immigration detention center in America and fed them into a Google Maps API code he had modified. He ran the script and it spat out more than 5,300 satellite images — one for every locked facility in the U.S. The prison population in this country has grown 500% in the past 30 years. One in every one hundred adults is behind bars and most of them are poor people. The recurrent patterns of brutally functional architecture within Prison Map are staggering. We’ve been building prisons in high desert and rural backwaters. Begley makes the Prison Industrial Complex (PIC) visible once more.

Likewise, for his project Profiling Is, Begley snagged the NYPD’s surveillance shots of business and residences in the NY boroughs which were under monitoring.

He doesn’t stop there. Begley’s App MetaData alerts users to U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, Afghanistan and elsewhere. This didn’t happen until the conclusion of a merrigoround of negotiation with the “apolitical” Apple. Begley finally got his drone strike App approved when he removed all mention the word drone! Now, you can get next-day updates of Obama’s largely-ignored drone war on Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Yemen straight to your smartphone.

State Business II

© Mari Bastashevski


Mari Bastashevski skirts a fine line between journalist, artist, researcher, photographer and tourist to dig up the personalities and money makers in the international arms trade. Here’s the feature I did for WIRED a while back. Her ongoing project State Business is devastating inasmuch it reveals how pervasive and complicit most nations are in making billions on the slaughter of humans.The US, the UK, Croatia, Azerbaijan, Georgia; Bastashevski’s following of the money takes us all over the place … sometimes even to the carport on the Facebook pages of international arms dealers.



If you can’t beat ‘em join ‘em. In 2002, after Hasan Elahi was mistaken for someone on the terror watch list and detained for hours at Detroit airport, he decided he’d save the authorities the bother and monitor himself. Caustic, direct, creepy and amusing, Elahi photographed everything he did, ate, shit, saw and worked on. He also GPS tracked his every move on a live web map. The project is titled Tracking Transcience. One of the by-products of the self-monitoring is the creation of a typology of toilets. Taking sousveillance to another level and entertaining thousands while he does it. Brill.


© MigraZoom. A migrant on a cargo train traveling from Arriaga, Chiapas to Ixtepec, Oaxaca. After crossing the Mexican-Guatemalan border and traveling to Arriaga, migrants hitch a ride on top of cargo trains to Ixtepec. This trip takes about 12 hours. In addition to the risk of falling off the train (amputations and death are common), gangs frequently extort migrants, charging them $100 to ride. They face threats of being thrown off the train, kidnapped, raped or trafficked if they do not pay.


There’s some great fine art projects out there about the U.S./Mexican border. Probably, the stand out is David Taylor’s Working The Line, which documents the militarization of the border. But it can be criticised for being to distant and tends to rest on the creaking aesthetic mores of American landscape photography. If we want to see what is really going on during the tough journey’s into North America, we should pay attention to MigraZoom, a project by Spanish-born photographer Encarni Pindado which puts disposable cameras in the hands of economic migrants during their perilous treks northward.


© David Taylor

Another beautifully shot and more unexpected treatment of new arrivals is Gabriele Stabile’s Refugee Hotel which documents approved asylum seekers’ first nights in America at four hotels adjacent to four hub airports through which new refugee migrants arrive. Respectful documentation that is pregnant with uncertainty.

Taylor’s work is currently on show at the amazing ‘Covert Operations’ at Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art.


Photographer Hank Willis Thomas is a prolific force. One of his most recent projects Question Bridge is a platform for black males to ask other black males questions about black identity. Participants do so through video and provide answers similarly. Access is easy, involvement free, connections priceless and it works well in exhibition format too. The murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson is the latest incident to demonstrate to the entire nation our shared need to face racial inequality int he country. Willis Thomas is doing his bit.


© Lindsay Lochman and Barbara Ciurej


With Ag Gag laws becoming ever more common, clever responses to imaging industrial food production must be inventive. Lindsay Lochman & Barbara Ciurej rip on the much-mythologized West and specifically on the hero-worship of Carleton Watkins by constructing sugar-coated and corn-fed diorama reconstruction of Watkins’ landscapes with shitty foodstuffs.

Will Potter ain’t a photographer but he’s putting imagery to good ends. Potter, a TED Fellow, has been reporting on the crack down on environmental activists under homeland security legislation that was designed to tackle terrorist. Instead of chasing bombchuckers, our law enforcement is going after tree huggers. The title of Potter’s book, Green Is The New Red, say its all. Routinely, it has been eco-activists who’ve brought us the shocking footage from inside factory farms. Potter, continuing the tradition of expose, wants to fly drones over feedlots and take advantage of laws being slow to be written. Again, we seeing the convergence of technologies and activist peel back the layers of obscurity purposefully put over our shady business practices in years past.


© Donna Ferrato


The greatest photography work being done to reveal the entrapped, terrorized lives of those victim to domestic violence, is done — perhaps not unsurprisingly by female photographers. Donna Ferrato has trained a lens on the topic for decades. Recently, young gun Sara Naomi Lewkowicz captured similar images to Ferrato as an intimate witness to partner abuse. The parallels were saddening proving that this is a strand of violent psychology we just are not dealing with effectively. To be frank, the issue isn’t being imaged enough; intimate partner abuse remains hidden behind closed doors.

Paula Bronstein was one of the earliest and most direct photographers to document the survivors of acid attacks in Asia. If we’re to mention women’s rights abroad we have to look at the work of Stephanie Sinclair, whose multiyear project Too Young To Wed is pitch perfect. Quiet, weighty, tragic and polychrome portraits of child brides throughout the world. Sinclair’s had help from all the major distributors and grant makers to cast the net of her survey far and wide. The transmedia project is about as good as it gets in terms of audience engagement tactics too.


© Jim Goldberg


It’s difficult to name a stand out photographer who has taken on the wealth gap in a resonant way. It sounds strange to say but maybe cash is difficult to shoot? This apparent lack is consistent with other art forms though. If Occupy taught us one thing, some issues are designed for public performance, demonstration, walking and protest signs. Think of music, for comparison. In the sixties musicians such as Joe Strummer and Nina Simone emerged with brilliant anger toward social injustice. Despite public disgust made visible in anti-Iraq-war protests and Occupy, there’s not a protest song from the 21st century of note. Perhaps music isn’t the format for anger or the wealth gap either?

Don’t worry, I’m not being a pessimist here. Violent dismay certainly exists. I’m just not convinced art is the realm where we see the most direct political action. Gone are the days of the great labor photographers such as Lewis Hine and Jacob Riis. Inequality was laid bare in the photojournalism of the civil rights era (Ernest Cole, Charles Moore, Danny Lyon) and while those reportages were about money and opportunity they weren’t primarily about the markets. Check out the work of Gregory Halpern for your modern day Milton Rogovin.

The most indelible and forthright description of wealth inequality is Jim Goldberg’s Rich and Poor, which remains the high point and the tone at which aspiring photographers should aim.

Dang, that’s been a lot of men’s names. I think it right to end with LaToya Ruby Frazier’s name then. She, better than anyone currently making work, ties together class, race, income, post-industrial America, public health, personal health, family and environmental hazard with her generational survey of the women in her family and her home town of Braddock, PA, in The Notion OF Family.


© La Toya Ruby Frazier


Poor positional play confounded by an absence of pace meant I found myself on the wrong side of a challenge for a soccer ball on Sunday morning. I won the ball, but didn’t stay on my feet. My right hand met the ground before my body.

Twenty-four hours later, with discomfort and swelling unabated, I chose to visit the ER to find out what the unglamourous tumble meant for my right wrist. On my way out the door, predicting a long wait at the hospital, I grabbed Trevor Paglen & A. C. Thompson’s book Torture Taxi (2006).

Morning Commute (Gold Coast Terminal), Las Vegas, NV, Distance ~ 1 mile, 6:26 a.m. © Trevor Paglen

I’ve talked about Trevor Paglen’s work before (albeit inadequately), and still maintain the best education on Paglen’s work is his Google lecture from 2009.

Paglen and Thompson, through an arduous but publicly-available paper trail, uncover the use of civilian aircraft in the Bush administration’s Extraordinary Rendition Program. Over 200 terror suspects were moved around the globe, not to mention the staff, transport teams, interrogators and American torturers. That’s a big operation. So while best attempts were made to keep is secret, Paglen and Thompson found and depicted its traces.

Unmarked 737 at “Gold Coast” Terminal Las Vegas, NV. Distance ~ 1 mile 10:44 p.m. © Trevor Paglen

For me, the surprising thing was that this activity was, as Paglen phrases it, “hidden in plain site”. Military aircraft must gain prior clearance before entering another nation’s airspace, whereas civilian aircraft need not satisfy the same protocols.  Also shocking is the fact that the CIA out-sourced it’s torture to convenient and “friendly” nations whose poor human rights records allowed for the application of unrestrained torture methods.

The CIA preferred Morocco and Mubarek’s Egypt to host and brutalise their human cargo.

In one passage, Paglen describes a particularly sadistic regime of torture in which Moroccan interrogators armed with scalpels visited and revisited Binyam Mohammed’s penis at two week intervals:

On the 21st of January, 2004, the Moroccans told Mohammad he was going home. […] Mohammad heard the sound of an airplane, then of men speaking American-accented English. As they had done in Pakistan, the American’s stripped Mohammad’s blindfold and clothes off, and Mohammad saw that he was again surrounded by black clad Americans wearing face-masks. ‘There was a white female with glasses’, he recalled, ‘she took the pictures. One of the soldiers held my penis and she took the pictures. This took awhile, maybe half an hour. She was one of the few Americans that ever showed my any sympathy. She was about 5’6”, short, blue eyes. When she saw the injuries I had, she gasped. She said, “Oh my God, look at that,” then all her mates looked at what she was pointing at and I could see the shock and horror in her eyes.” But Mohammad wasn’t going home. The Americans were taking him to Afghanistan.

Mohammad suffered for eighteen months in Morocco and the same period in Afghanistan at the hands of America’s contractors of violence. Since he was picked up off the street in Karachi, Pakistan in 2002, Mohammed was transported across the globe through multiple jurisdictions and tortured to within inches of his life countless times. Your tax dollars at work.

In May 2011, the U.S. Supreme court rejected the case of Binyam Mohammed v. Jeppesen Dataplan, Inc., a lawsuit brought by Mohammed and four other victims of the rendition program against Jeppesen a subsidiary of Boeing Aircraft. The plaintiffs claimed that Jeppesen provided the transportation that brought them to their respective places of torture.

The decision leaves standing  a federal appeals court ruling upholding the “state secrets'” privilege claimed by both the Bush and Obama administrations to prevent to testimony in matters regarding national security.

A defeat for human rights and the legitimacy of the law as it exists.

A man left with only two teeth in his lower jaw ­after being t­ortured with an electric truncheon, Chad, Africa, year unknown. Photograph: Courtesy Hermann Vogel

Paglen and Thompson interweave the horrific accounts of prisoner’s experiences with the mundane logistics of CIA front companies scheduling aeroplanes.

As I waited for the orthopedic’s analysis of my X-ray images, it was quite clear my injury, whatever it was, was is inconsequential.

Last year, I came across Brogdon, Vogel, and McDowell’s A Radiologic Atlas of Abuse, Torture, Terrorism, and Inflicted Trauma. This is a book centred on specialised imaging and imagery of political violence; it applies to the most pressing of basic global human rights and yet it is unlikely to be used or acquired by a photo enthusiast. The A Radiologic Atlas of Abuse, Torture, Terrorism, and Inflicted Trauma is an encyclopedia for use by medical and legal professionals likely involved in the investigation of war crimes or domestic abuse.

From the summary:

‘The results of aggression against humans can be hideously obvious, but may also be entirely concealed from casual inspection. Often […] only radiologic exploration of the inner recesses of the body can reveal the evidence of such violence. Victims of aggression range from the tiniest infant to entire populations. Hopefully you will never encounter every situation covered in this book. However, should you come across any, you will want a copy within reach.’

As I read Paglen’s horrific accounts of torture, it occurred to me a machine had just peered through my lower arm and a doctor was about to describe the exact nature of my injury. I wondered about the permanent marks left inside the tissues of torture victims and I wondered about the chances of these injuries ever being documented and, consequently, seen.

As with the extraordinary rendition program, one presumes the visual evidence will always be hidden, suppressed. Or non-existent.

Hermann Vogel, co-author of A Radiologic Atlas of Abuse, Torture, Terrorism, and Inflicted Trauma, has considered similar issues. Thirty years ago, Vogel began collecting x-rays of torture injuries. His collection now numbers 120 X-ray images. Vogel explains:

“X-rays reveal what the naked eye cannot see. A forensic investigation will reveal fractures, foreign objects and needles, but x-rays provide plausibility. Does the story match the pattern of injury? Does the age of the injury correlate with the time-span of when the torture occurred? Does the torture method correspond with the region, organisation, military or militia responsible?”

“In some countries, X-rays can be used as evidence in court and a few of my X-rays have helped prove that torture has occurred. They are also increasingly being considered as part of the [political] asylum process.”

The world saw the digital photographs made by soldiers asked to perform as prison guards at Abu Ghraib, but this was only a single prison (and the most audacious at that) operated by American forces in the global war on terror. Given that only lowly operatives were prosecuted for that shit-show, imagine what scientific X-ray images and the political will could achieve if they were delivered to a international court of law. And imagine George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Deputy Assistant Attorney General John Yoo and Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee in the dock.

Sometimes, images with no author carry the most power.

But let’s not be blind. Torture in our name continues today. Vogel surmises:

“I can imagine that no one has access to x-rays from the American detention camps like Abu Ghraib, although I would also assume that American torture methods are so advanced now that any injury is undetectable. Pure psychological torture, which includes months of solitary confinement and days of sleep deprivation, is very popular worldwide because it does not leave behind any physical traces. Torturers have nothing to fear if nothing can be proved.”

There are some documentary photographers, namely Gilles Peress, motivated in their work by the prospect of their photographs doubling as evidence. Compared to Vogel’s collection of images, and compared to the thousands of X-rays that were never made of torture victims in America’s imperialist wars, this expected influence of their photographs is optimistic in the extreme.


This post was transcribed by Aline Smithson over Skype. During my recovery, we’ll collaborate once a week for six weeks on extended posts. This is done in the interets of shared learning and proof that the photo-blogging community is alive, strong and charitable. Thanks Aline!

Screengrab: Pete and Aline at work.

Large hangars and fuel storage, Tonopah Test Range, Nevada, distance 18 miles, 10:44 am. © Trevor Paglen

I’ve tried talking about Trevor Paglen’s expansive oeuvre before, with particular reference to his documenting of Black Sites (US extrajudicial prisons). I don’t think I did a great job, which is why I am happy to see Joerg and Asim both grapple with Paglen’s contributions.

Conscientious interviews Paglen

‘What I want out of art is “things that help us see who we are now” – and I mean this quite literally. I think of my visual work an exploration of political epistemology (i.e. the politics of how we know what we think we know?) filled with all the contradictions, dead ends, moments of revelation, and confusion that characterize our collective ability to comprehend the world around us in general.’

Asim Rafiqui delves deep: ‘Photographing The Unseen Or What Conventional Photojournalism Is Not Telling Us About Ourselves.

‘[Paglen’s photographs] remind us how most photojournalists prefer to pander in the simple, the obvious and the conventional, while never engaging in the complex and crucual. Our newspapers and photographers have, either out of convenience, laziness or sheer careerism, chosen to veil the GWAT behind beautifully rendered and largely distracting projects produced from the confines of embedded positions on the front line.’

Of course, war photography is only one aspect area of photojournalism, but the argument can be made that criticism of war photography has stopped short, cowered or just missed the point. If one accepts that as the case, then Jim Johnson‘s three posts about the changing conventions in war photography (here, here and here) are a good lesson in how to think and see war photography, which let’s admit it, is a genre America still dresses in wonder and heroic myth.

“We never sat down, as far as I know, and came up with a grand strategy. Everything was very reactive. That’s how you get to a situation where you pick people up, send them into a netherworld and don’t say, ‘What are we going to do with them afterwards?’ “

Former senior US intelligence officer. (Source)


Mihail Kogalniceanu, Romania (RO) @ 44.36043300, 28.49149700

Mihail Kogalniceanu air base. Romania. @ 44.36043300, 28.49149700


Since 2001, the US has operated a program of rendition, illegal torture and operated a network of secret prisons and CIA “Black Sites”.

Men captured as part of the Bush and Obama administrations’ program were are interrogated, physically & psychologically beaten and denied human rights.

Images of these secret prisons are not common, but I’ve peppered this piece with a few just for the sake of the exercise.

At the top of this article is Mihail Kogalniceanu air base, Romania. It was used for “high-level” detainees from as early as 2005. Beneath is Kiejkuty Stare an illegal CIA prison just 20 miles away from Szymany airport, Poland. (source) It was used as early as 2005 and its function was confirmed in 2007. (source)

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, “the mastermind of 9/11”, claims he was submitted to waterboarding 183 times over a one-month period. New evidence suggests he was interrogated in Poland. (More from Der Spiegel here and here).


Kiejkuty Stare



Khalid Shiekh Mohammed



Diego Garcia Island, Indian Ocean, United Kingdom Territory. Rendition Flights Refuelled on the Island in 2002.

Diego Garcia Island, Indian Ocean, United Kingdom Territory. Rendition Flights Refuelled on the Island in 2002.


The UK Government provided infrastructural support for America’s extraordinary rendition program allowing rendition flights to refuel on Diego Garcia (above), a British territory in the Indian Ocean. (More here and here).

– – –

Below is the plan of a cell used during the 19 month illegal detention of Mohamed Farag Ahmad Bashmilah, a Yemeni national. Salon reports:

Bashmilah’s story also appears to show in clear terms that he was an innocent man. After 19 months of imprisonment and torment at the hands of the CIA, the agency released him with no explanation, just as he had been imprisoned in the first place. He faced no terrorism charges. He was given no lawyer. He saw no judge. He was simply released, his life shattered.

In 2007, Salon did a thorough job in describing his detention and its aftermath, even presenting plans based on Bashmilah’s descriptions of torture and interrogation rooms. No-one knows for certain where these cells were, but it is suspected they were within Afghanistan.


Rendering of Mohamed Farag Ahmad Bashmilah's first cell in Afghanistan (based on Bashmilah's own drawings). Courtesy of

Exhibit I: Rendering of Mohamed Farag Ahmad Bashmilah's first cell in Afghanistan (based on Bashmilah's own drawings). Source:



Washington Post

In Afghanistan, the largest CIA covert prison was code-named the Salt Pit, at center left above. (Space Imaging Middle East). Source: Washington Post


The most notorious Black Site in Afghanistan is referred to as ‘The Salt Pit’.

The Salt Pit brings us to Trevor Paglen‘s geography, photography and investigative academics, but first let me point out a couple more excellent resources.

When the details of rendition broke in 2007, Jane Mayer led the exposé with her book The Dark Side. Read a book review here and her extended New Yorker essay here.

FRONTLINE produced this astonishing interactive graphic showing all the illegal prisons and all the US aviation front-companies used for the rendition flights. That map is part of a larger presentation with interviews, time-lines and further resources.

More recently, Anand Gopal has revealed the US military’s still recent tactic against the Taliban in Afghanistan of by-night kidnappings. The result? The US has lost the support of the Afghan people toward the American project. Read America’s Secret Afghan Prisons here.

Just this month, Stephen Lendman summarised the January 26th UN Human Rights Council (HRC) report ‘Joint study on global practices in relation to secret detention in the context of countering terrorism’ which details practices by various countries “including America, by far the world’s worst offender in its war on terror.” The full report is here (Word) or here (pdf).

Lendman’s words The truth is shocking:

“Besides Guantanamo, Afghanistan and Iraq, HRC said the CIA runs scores of offshore secret prisons in over 66 countries worldwide for dissidents and alleged terrorists – in Egypt, Algeria, Jordan, Morocco, Syria, Libya, Tunisia, India, Pakistan, Russia, Uzbekistan, Sudan, Zimbabwe, Ethopia, Djibouti, Kenya, Poland, Romania, Bosnia, Kosovo, Thailand, Diego Garcia, and elsewhere.” (Source)

More summary at Talk Left.

Onward. Now, Paglen …


The two images below are by Trevor Paglen. The first is the Salt Pit and the second is a military jail in Kabul. They are also his most ordinary of images … the only images he could capture in the circumstances.

Paglen isn’t primarily concerned with prisons; he is concerned with all the unseen activity of the military industrial complex – aviation companies, air strips, covert ops, air bases, Pentagon annual budget projections, spy satellites, shadow NASA reconnaissance agencies … the list goes on.

After meeting Emiliano Granado last Summer, he posted a good one-stop description of Paglen’s work. Granado also posted some good examples of Paglen’s Limit Telephotography and The Other Night Sky series. Check those out and then skip to Paglen’s lecture at the foot of this post.


The Salt Pit is located in an old brick factory a few miles northeast of Kabul, along an isolated back-road connecting Kabul to Bagram.

The Salt Pit, Shomali Plains Northeast of Kabul, Afghanistan. Trevor Paglen: The Salt Pit is located in an old brick factory a few miles northeast of Kabul, along an isolated back-road connecting Kabul to Bagram.



This site was brought to my attention by Afghan journalists and human rights activists in Kabul. The code name of this site remains unknown.

Black Site, Kabul, Afghanistan. Trevor Paglen: This site was brought to my attention by Afghan journalists and human rights activists in Kabul. The code name of this site remains unknown.



I have waited for a long time for an online presentation of Paglen’s oeuvre to which I could refer PP readers. (Thanks Alejandro!)

It’s quite the thrill to be brought in on Paglen’s sleuth work, as he walks us through the various public records used to piece together the rendition program. If you can spare an hour this weekend, you’ll be thankful for the education!


Paglen’s work is to be published by Aperture in a book titled INVISIBLE. You can see Paglen and publisher Lesley Martin discussing the project here.


Had a fun time in New York last week. Stayed with Jack and Marisa. Below is not Jack. Below is Chris by Jack.



We went to Christopher Anderson’s book launch for Capitolio. It was great to see it after recent reviews, heated debates (check out comments) questions and wot not. I don’t think the selection of the images was the best.

At the Metropolitan, Surface Tension: Photographs from the Permanent Collection was a pleasant whimsy into some mesmerizing works, notably Adam Fuss’ UNTITLED (1997) made by the metronome shimmers of snakes upon black dust upon white dust. Image Source: Cheim & Read

Fuss, Adam

The Met’s photography department was putting together the final touches on Robert Frank’s The Americans which opened this week. It was all hands to the pump as evidenced by besuited Malcolm Daniel – who I spied carrying large, heavy object (post?) behind a partition and into the exhibition space.

Egg and Cheese Bagel.

Over at the Museum of Modern Art, I was pleased to see Russell Lee‘s work Bulletin Board in Post Office Showing a Large Collection of “Wanted Men” Signs, Ames, Iowa (1936). Who doesn’t love a mug shot?

Lee, Russell, MoMa Bulletin BoardCRI_61685


Bringing the practice of mapping of transgressions into the 21st century, the Spatial Design Lab from the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation at Columbia University exhibited its Million Dollar Blocks Project (2006).

Brooklyn. Million Dollar Blocks


On Monday night I sat with Andrew Lichtenstein. We talked. Andrew recommended Brennan Linsley‘s work and was quite emphatic about the book ‘Concrete Mama‘. He also spoke highly of Max Kenner and the work at the Bard Prison Initiative

Tuesday, I met Emiliano Granado. We were first in contact over his San Quentin Giants pictures. We talked about many things including Trevor Paglen, Argentina, the Burke Gilman, and the Horticultural Society of New York, which recently lost Barbara Margolis who was an inspiring leader. Emiliano recommended Alessandra Sanguinetti‘s work.


On Sunday, I’d been at the WTC construction site. There was some portraiture on display in a window. The space behind the window was closed but would usually be open. The photographs were easy on the eye.


On my last night I checked out Steven Hirsch’s Courthouse Confessions.

That’s Matt Kelley looking at Steven’s work. He’s coordinator for Criminal Justice, online communications for the Innocence Project and all together nice bloke. Matt’s double identity is twittered and can be followed here and here.


Hirsch takes street portraits of folk going to court, secures (in some ironic twist) a non-binding statement and then transcribes it verbatim to go with the portrait. Constantly moving the camera, Hirsch uses hard flash and distorted angles/zoom to depict these individuals as shape shifters; as anomalies. The fact Hirsch’s subjects (in most cases) seem alien to the logic of the courts – that any lessons arising from their cases are unlikely to effect sentencing laws in the future – should but be a source of disquiet for us as an audience.

Hirsch, Steven

One last thing. On Saturday, I saw John Baldessari sat outside a Grennwich Village coffeehouse, but I bottled saying anything. I’ve learnt that famous people abound in Manhattan and you see ’em everywhere.

Thanks to everyone who altered their orbits a little to coincide with mine.


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