Thursday, July 3, 2008

Spy Satellites Amongst Us

BERKELEY, California -- For most people, photographing something that isn't there might be tough. Not so for Trevor Paglen.

His shots of 189 secret spy satellites are the subject of a new exhibit -- despite the fact that, officially speaking, the satellites don't exist. The Other Night Sky, on display at the University of California at Berkeley Art Museum through September 14, is only a small selection from the 1,500 astrophotographs Paglen has taken thus far.

In taking these photos, Paglen is trying to draw a metaphorical connection between modern government secrecy and the doctrine of the Catholic Church in Galileo's time.

"What would it mean to find these secret moons in orbit around the earth in the same way that Galileo found these moons that shouldn't exist in orbit around Jupiter?" Paglen says.

Satellites are just the latest in Paglen's photography of supposedly nonexistent subjects. To date, he's snapped haunting images of various military sites in the Nevada deserts, "torture taxis" (private planes that whisk people off to secret prisons without judicial oversight) and uniform patches from various top-secret military programs.

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