Portfolio published in ArchivoZine 19 - New Media, In the Age of Visual Culture.
The New Town
"The New Town" is a series of photographs made throughout 2013 that examine an idealized planned community in the American Midwest. The images were made by accessing a publicly-available, networked CCTV camera that was installed by the developer on a cell phone tower atop a church in the center of a town, to monitor and publicize progress on the construction of this planned community. This camera is an example of the many non-secure internet-ready devices that actively and indiscriminately stream information to the internet.
In addition to the visual stream of information from the camera, I had online access to the device’s entire control panel, allowing me to remotely operate the camera, and pan, tilt, zoom, focus, and adjust the exposure. With these advanced tools, I was able to take control of the camera as if it were my own and subvert its intended purpose in order to make photographs.
Maintaining such dynamic control and close observation of New Town and its residents proved to yield a considerable amount of imagery. These photographs allude to the visual language of amateur and surveillance footage and recall the type of “evidentiary” images that have become a part of our shared vernacular image culture and are often used to validate public paranoia. Film and photographs depicting suspected criminals, missing persons, and national tragedies are disseminated by popular news and social media, and blown up grainy film and pixelated imagery are often equated with suspected suspicious activity.
The increasing use of domestic surveillance continues to be a complicated issue that raises concerns of privacy invasion and loss of personal freedom. The use of mass surveillance through the interception of internet traffic has been revealed as a powerful tool for monitoring and manipulation. Emerging technologies and the appropriation of existing devices and networks continues to provide access points for modern invasions of privacy.
This project follows the daily lives of New Town residents to reflect on the expansive use of surveillance technologies, increasing loss of privacy, and heightened sense of anxiety and vulnerability that define American life in the early 21st century. My simultaneous role as both narrator and image-maker complicates the ethical boundaries between my own acts of surveillance and social critique. Through my photography, I hope to question the ethical failures, structures, and misuse of power that have resulted from this “see-something-say-something” culture of fear and social manipulation.
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