Big data. Surveillance. Privacy. These are issues that are increasingly affecting our lives. Unsurprisingly, these things have also been on many artists’ minds, including photographic artist Marcus DeSieno. In his new book, “No Man’s Land: Views from a Surveillance State,” (Daylight, 2018) DeSieno investigates surveillance culture, questioning what it means to live in a time when our actions are tracked, logged and saved.
Working on a computer, DeSieno hacked into surveillance cameras from around the world, searching for images to include in his investigation. Instead of areas most commonly thought of when thinking about surveillance — airports, shopping centers, busy streets — DeSieno sought out landscapes with no people. Once he found the images that fit his purpose, DeSieno made a computer image, then brought out his large-format camera and photographed the images using a salt paper negative process, which creates an atmospheric feel similar to early pictorialist landscape photography. The resulting images are both haunting and thought-provoking.
In an essay included in the book, historian Martha A. Sandweiss said of DeSieno’s work:
“By effectively rescuing the unvalued landscapes caught up in the digital surveillance of humans acting badly, DeSieno asks us to think about what these places are without us. … In the end, despite all the troubling issues raised here about the privatization of property and the omnipresence of the surveillance state, these pictures are also satisfyingly subversive and gloriously redemptive. DeSieno transforms images made without aesthetic intent into carefully handworked landscapes that reflect his own sensibilities. … Long after the digital footage captured by the surveillance cameras is discarded or erased, DeSieno’s smart and deeply moving photographs will remain.”
Here are some of the images from the book:
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