Tag Archives: Night Sky

Brighton Photo Biennial 2012 – Trevor Paglen’s Geographies of Seeing show podcast with Lighthouse director Honor Harger

Lighthouse director Honor Harger. Photo © Wendy Pye

Social scientist, artist, writer and provocateur Trevor Paglen uses photography to explore the secret activities of the U.S. military and intelligence agencies. For me, Geographies of Seeing was one of Brighton Photo Biennial’s to-see shows, not least for Paglen’s multi-dimensional approach to his subject matter. Who could resist taking time to look at the work of someone who is described as a ‘provocateur’, especially as I first saw some of this work at Frieze art fair a few years ago and was intrigued back then.

On the press tour of the show I got a chance to discuss the work with Lighthouse director Honor Harger who provides an informed and articulate insight into Paglen’s work in the audio podcast below. Click on the link below and then again on the link, it goes green as you rool over it, in the next page. It is 17mins 26secs long.

HonorHarger_discusses_TrevorPaglen_show

Trevor Paglen Geographies of Seeing Photo © Wendy Pye

“The Other Night Sky uses data from an international network of amateur satellite watchers to track and photograph classified spacecraft. Echoing the efforts of historic astronomers, Paglen documents astral movements that don’t officially exist.

Trevor Paglen Geographies of Seeing Photo © Wendy Pye

“In the series Limit Telephotography Paglen adapted the super-strength telescopes, normally used to shoot distant planets, to reveal top-secret U.S. governmental sites, sometimes 65 miles away from his camera; covert bases, so remote they cannot be seen by an unaided civilian eye from any point on Earth.

 Show photos above. Photo © Miranda Gavin

“Paglen coined the term “Experimental Geography” to describe practices coupling experimental cultural production and art-making with ideas from critical human geography about the production of space, materialism, and praxis. His work, such The Other Night Sky has received widespread attention for both his technical innovations and for his conceptual rigour. He is also author of three books including Torture Taxi (2006), the first book to comprehensively describe the CIA’s extraordinary rendition program, I Could Tell You But Then You Would Have to be Destroyed by Me (2007), which is a look at top-secret military programmes, and Blank Spots on the Map: The Dark Geography of the Pentagon’s Secret World, which is a broader look at secrecy in the United States.

Honor and I at the show. Photo © Wendy Pye

“Paglen (born in 1974) is an American artist, geographer, and author, currently based in New York. His work deliberately blurs lines between science, contemporary art, journalism, and technology to construct unfamiliar, yet meticulously researched ways to see and interpret the world around us. He has been exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Tate Modern, London; The Walker Arts Center, Minneapolis; The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh; Institute for Contemporary Art, Philadelphia; The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, North Adams; the 2008 Taipei Biennial; the Istanbul Biennial 2009, and numerous other solo and group exhibitions.” From press release. Presented and curated in partnership with Lighthouse.

Filed under: Artist Talks, Photographers, Photography Festivals, Visual Artists Tagged: brighton, Brighton Photo Biennial 2012, experimental geography, Geographies of Seeing, Honor Harger, Lighthouse, photo show, space photography, Trevor Paglen

Into the Ether by Fazal Sheikh

The northern Indian city of Varanasi, perched on the banks of the Ganges river, is perhaps the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world, a site that has drawn pilgrims literally for millennia. Its famed for its burningghatsthe sloped-approaches to the waterfront where for centuries devotees have brought their deceased loved ones for cremation, then floating the ashes into the mighty, holy Ganges. Some Hindus still believe its auspicious to pass away on these steps. In Varanasis morning fogs and along its shrine-lined streets, visitors can feel an ancient, intangible power, a sense of place that is defined more by ritual and time than geography.

Varanasis burning grounds drew critically-acclaimed photographer Fazal Sheikh, whose latest project,Ether, on exhibit at Pace/MacGill gallery in New York City till Oct. 20, is the product of his own nocturnal wanderings in the old town. New York-born Sheikhs two earlier India-based projectsMoksha(2005), of a community of widows, andLadli(2007), portraits of young women in orphanages, hospitals, brothelshad a decidedly engaged, political edge.Etheris less so. Other documentary pieces of mine are much clearer in the pointed nature of what I wanted to say, says Sheikh, who first came to prominence with his work from refugee camps in Kenya. This project is a bit more open and broad. Its an exploration of a mood.

Sheikhs vigil would begin at nightfall and end at dawn. Ether itself is that mysterious, unfathomable fifth element of the universethe others being water, air, fire and earthand is a property Sheikh attempts to articulate in his work. He makes elemental gestures throughout: The embers of a fire glow with an almost cosmic intensity. The stars wink and gleam in a night sky. Four dun-colored city strays curl into the trammeled earth.

Sheikh describes working in Varanasi as a sort of nurturing experience. The whole place was calming; there was a kind of quiet. InEther, there is a dreamy, contemplative quality to the pictures, but it rarely feels overly sentimental. Departing from Sheikhs earlier portraiture, many ofEthers images are of bodiesboth those of sleepers and the deadwho dont directly engage the camera. The inability of a photograph to fully penetrate its subject fascinates Sheikh: There are some things that a person holds for themselves, some things that will remain inaccessible. carrera de fotografia . But if there are visions of a world beyond our world, its traces are in the ether.

Fazal Sheikh is a photographer based in Zurich, New York City and Kenya. His latest project Ether, is on displayon exhibit at Pace/MacGill gallery in New York City till Oct. 20.

Greg Miller

Greg Miller is a photographer’s photographer.  He captures the American Experience with an 8 x10 camera, but also with pathos and realism and beauty. In 2008 Greg received the prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship and his website reflects why–he has numerous stunning projects that reveal a curiosity about a range of cultures and an ease with strangers that combine to create a feast of light and color and intimacy. And today just happens to be Greg’s birthday, so a little celebrating is in order.
Duck River,2008, from Nashville

Born in Nashville, Greg works as a fine art and editorial photographer, with work appearing in publications such as The New York Times Magazine, TIME, People, Fortune, Life, and many more.  He exhibits worldwide, teaches at the International Center for Photography in New York, and gives workshops across the country.  Today I am featuring his project, Waiting For, about that disappearing summer pastime in the back of a pick-up truck watching a movie with someone you love.
Images from Waiting For
Waiting For…
I found this project in my backyard, at the drive-in movie theatre near my house. While waiting for a movie, I fell in love with what has happening all around me: cars full of friends, kids on dates and married couples with children well beyond the romance of earlier years.

I photograph in the time before the movies begin.  By the time the projector’s silver light illuminates the night sky, my job is done.

Trevor Paglen and The Last Pictures

© Trevor Paglen

Over the course of photographing for what would become his 2010 monograph Invisible: Covert Operations and Classified Landscapes, Trevor Paglen spent years tracking the orbit of American military spacecraft and documenting their ghostly trails across the night sky. The resulting images (which also appeared in Aperture # 191) were as much about photography itself—exploring the power and the limits of photographic knowledge—as they were meditations on the relationship between humankind and the infinite. In a fascinating evolution of this work, Paglen is now behind The Last Pictures, a project that will attach a record of human photographic images onto a satellite that will be sent into orbit in September 2012. Paglen spent five years interviewing scientists, artists, anthropologists, and philosophers to decide what images should compose this photo-historical record, and then worked with materials scientists at MIT to inscribe the 100 images he chose onto an “ultra-archival” silicon disc (not unlike the Pioneer Plaques and the Voyager Golden Record) that will be attached to EchoStar XVI. This satellite will function as a regular television satellite for the next fifteen years before powering down, entering a “graveyard orbit,” and remaining for billions of years as a photographic relic of modern human civilization for future civilizations and lifeforms to discover. And perhaps it will even show up in one of Paglen’s future photographs.

Here on earth in the year 2012, you can catch Paglen’s lecture tour (beginning September in New York) featuring philosophers and scientists discussing the project. Later this year, Creative Time will publish a book of the images, accompanied by short texts by those who contributed to the project. For more on Paglen and his work, visit his website.

Explosions in the Sky: The Cygnus Loop Nebula

If you’d been here several thousand years ago and looked up in the sky on a clear night, you’d have seen a very small, but very bright object flaring brilliantly some 1,500 light-years away. That would have been the massive supernova that gave birth to what is now the lovely and wispy Cygnus Loop Nebula. It’s not certain just when the blast would have been visible on Earth; it occurred 5,000 to 8,000 years ago and in any event, it would have taken 1,500 years for its light to reach us. What is certain though is that the Cygnus Loop—here captured by the cameras aboard NASA’s Galaxy Evolution explorer—is a stunner. The nebula extends more than three times the size of the full moon in the night sky, and is tucked next to one of the ‘swan’s wings’ in the constellation of Cygnus. The filaments of gas and dust visible here in ultraviolet light were heated by the shockwave from the supernova, which is still spreading outward from the original explosion.

To see more photographs from space check out Our Beautiful Planet: Images from Space by an Astronaut Photographer.

Norway’s Northern Lights

A riot of color in the night sky above the Arctic Circle gave local photographers a spectacular light show this September. Sometimes called the aurora borealis, the northern lights are caused by streams of particle-charged solar winds that hit the Earth’s magnetic field, causing hues of green and pink to shimmer against the backdrop of the stars. This year, professional and amateur photographers were able to capture the lights in more southerly latitudes than usual. Herewith, a small sampling of what they saw.