Documenting the Invisible: Political Agency in Trevor Paglen’s Limit Telephotography

Gary Kafer


Taken from up to forty miles away, Trevor Paglen's limit telephotography images of covert military bases in the American Southwest are blurred by dense atmopshere, dust and debris. In effect, his photographs are highly illegible, and thus the military bases escape any sort of revelation. Following this logic, if one cannot see these top secret locations, then these images are in fact not politically effective at disclosing confidential federal information. Rather, Paglen asserts that the political agency of his can be located not in the image, but in the practice of performing limit telephotography - standing on public land and excercising the right to photograph. In turn, Paglen relocates the documentarian potential of his images into an agency formulated by a relational aesthetic, one in which the communal effects of creating the image and interpreting it generate the possibilities of enacting further practices of political resistance.


Trevor Paglen; Limit Telephotography; Documentary; Surveillance; Relational Aesthetics; Experimental Geography

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