Trevor Paglen Wins Electronic Frontier Foundation Award

Trevor Paglen. Courtesy of Creative Time

Artist Trevor Paglen is among the honorees of the 2014 Pioneer Awards from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a nonprofit dedicated to defending civil liberties on the Internet.

Coming from a background in geography, Paglen first gained attention with his “Limit Telephotography” series, which involved him taking super-long-range photos of classified US government facilities. He has also served as a journalist, penning books including Torture Taxi: On the Trail of the CIA’s Rendition Flights (with A.C. Thompson). In 2013, his Creative Time-sponsored work The Last Pictures (surveyed at his current gallery, Metro Pictures) had him launch a collection of images into space aboard a satellite—an artwork designed quite literally to outlast humanity and stand as the last transmission from human civilization.

Watch a video about Trevor Paglen’s The Last Pictures project:

One of his biggest crossovers into the mainstream came in early 2014, as a collaboration between Creative Time Reports and the new Glenn Greenwald website, the Intercept. For the launch of the Intercept, Paglen unveiled images of the National Surveillance Agency, National Reconnaisance Office, and National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, taken by helicopter, in an attempt to put a face on otherwise inscrutable forces. In an accompanying essay, he explained:

My intention is to expand the visual vocabulary we use to “see” the U.S. intelligence community. Although the organizing logic of our nation’s surveillance apparatus is invisibility and secrecy, its operations occupy the physical world. Digital surveillance programs require concrete data centers; intelligence agencies are based in real buildings; surveillance systems ultimately consist of technologies, people, and the vast network of material resources that supports them. If we look in the right places at the right times, we can begin to glimpse America’s vast intelligence infrastructure.

The EFF’s other 2014 Pioneer honorees are United Nations Special Rapporteur Frank La Rue and US representative Zoe Lofgren. The award ceremony will be held on October 2 at the Lodge at the Regency Center in San Francisco, with a keynote address from the Yes Men.

Watch a video on Trevor Paglen’s photo series for the Intercept:


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