Trevor Paglen - Capturing Secret Government Satellites
Photographer, author and geographer Trevor Paglen has been investigating aspects of society beyond national and international law; the secret realms and activity of government agents and departments.
As he states on his website, “[My] work deliberately blurs lines between science, contemporary art, journalism, and other disciplines to construct unfamiliar, yet meticulously researched ways to see and interpret the world around us.” I first encountered his work at a gallery part of the Brighton Photo Biennial in the UK in October, and have been fascinated by his work and writing since.
His series The Other Night Sky (pictured), is a project to track and photograph classified American satellites, space debris, and other unknown objects in Earth’s orbit. Paglen’s background in geography aids his use of observational data collected by an international network of amateur satellite observers to calculate the position and timing of each object. Special software and a long exposure allow the specific object to be delineated from other satellites and celestial objects.
Other series’ see Paglen using telephoto lens technology to photograph secret military bases and installations within the United States. Some of his subjects are captured from over 60 miles away. In another series, Paglen photographs the similarly mysterious and contentious US military “Drone” program of unmanned aircraft used for long range surveillance and for low-profile bombing missions. Another series sees the artist secretly documenting the secret and mysterious activities of the CIA, including secret international bases used for torture outside of US law. Other images see unmarked and unreported planes (torture planes known as ”torture taxis’) used in CIA operations (largely breaking international laws) and using falsified travel documentation while operating abroad.