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One Artist We Hope Has Filed His Tax Returns Properly

from WIRED.com

Photographer Documents Secret Satellites — All 189 of Them

By Bryan Gardiner Email 06.21.08

Artist Trevor Paglen’s time-exposure photographs show the streaks of light left by classified satellites.
Photo: Trevor Paglen

 

BERKELEY, California — For most people, photographing something that isn’t there might be tough. Not so for Trevor Paglen.

His shots of 189 secret spy satellites are the subject of a new exhibit — despite the fact that, officially speaking, the satellites don’t exist. The Other Night Sky, on display at the University of California at Berkeley Art Museum through September 14, is only a small selection from the 1,500 astrophotographs Paglen has taken thus far.

In taking these photos, Paglen is trying to draw a metaphorical connection between modern government secrecy and the doctrine of the Catholic Church in Galileo’s time.

“What would it mean to find these secret moons in orbit around the earth in the same way that Galileo found these moons that shouldn’t exist in orbit around Jupiter?” Paglen says.

Satellites are just the latest in Paglen’s photography of supposedly nonexistent subjects. To date, he’s snapped haunting images of various military sites in the Nevada deserts, “torture taxis” (private planes that whisk people off to secret prisons without judicial oversight) and uniform patches from various top-secret military programs.

spybird.png

While all of Paglen’s projects are the result of meticulous research, he’s also the first to admit that his photos aren’t necessarily revelatory. That’s by design. Like the blurry abstractions of his super-telephoto images showing secret military installations in Nevada, the tiny blips of satellites streaking across the night sky in his new series of photos are meant more as reminders rather than as documentation.

“I think that some of the earliest ideas in the modern period were actually from astronomy,” Paglen explains. “You look at Galileo: He goes up and points his telescope up at Jupiter and finds out, hey, Jupiter has these moons.”

More significant than the discovery itself, Paglen says, was the idea that anyone with a telescope could verify it and see the same exact thing that Galileo saw — an idea Paglen is trying to re-create in his own photographs.

“It really was analogous to a certain kind of promise of democracy,” says Paglen, who sees a similar anti-authoritarian premise running through his own work.

[ click to read full article at WIRED.com ]

Posted on June 26, 2008 by Editor

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