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Matinee: Trevor Paglen Share This on LinkedIn   Share This on Google   Tweet This   Forward This

11 August 2018

Saturday matinees long ago let us escape from the ordinary world to the island of the Swiss Family Robinson or the mutinous decks of the Bounty. Why not, we thought, escape the usual fare here with Saturday matinees of our favorite photography films?

So we're pleased to present the 162nd in our series of Saturday matinees today: three short video clips of Trevor Paglen. In the first Paglen describes his work in his own words, in the second the curator of his current exhibit discusses his work and in the third Paglen is interviewed by Jeffery Brown of the PBS Newshour.

Which is only fitting because Paglen is a triple threat himself, working in photography, art assemblies and sculpture of a sort. Even in his photography, he's a triple threat, shooting landscape on the ground, under the water and in the sky.

As he explains himself in the above video Artist and Geographer Trevor Paglen on the occasion of being awarded a MacArther Fellowship, he developed a method of limit telephotography using high-power telescopes usually trained on celestial bodies to photograph secret prisons and military bases from up to 50 miles away.

His night photography similarly observes the unseen by keeping the shutter open long enough to capture star trails but also to reveal the contrasting paths of the satellites keeping an eye on us.

And his underwater photography follows the fiber optic cables circling the Earth that help create our Internet infrastructure.

What do all of these subjects have in common? They are all within our field of vision but not recognized either because they are too far away to be detected or buried on the sea floor or hardly noticeable above us.

In the second video, Smithsonia American Art Museum curator of photography John Jacob discusses that aspect of Paglen's work for the current exhibit Trevor Paglen: Sites Unseen:

And, finally, the NewsHour's Brown talked to Paglen about his work for In a World Full of Surveillance, Artist Trevor Paglen Stares Back.

Paglen tells Brown, "We should be paying attention to the things that are shaping what the rest of our lives are going to be like and what our children's lives are going to be like."

The videos (presented in chronological order) may all be short but, taken together, present an intriguing portrait of a fascinating figure who is able to point out the things right in front of our nose that we may have failed to notice.

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