The New Town is a series of photographs made throughout 2013 that examine an idealized planned community in the American Midwest. The images were made by accessing a publicly available, networked CCTV camera that was installed by the town’s developer on a cellphone tower atop a church in the center of the town to monitor and publicize progress on the construction of this planned community. This camera is an example of the many nonsecure internet-ready devices that actively and indiscriminately stream information to the internet.
In addition to the visual stream of information from the camera, I had online access to the device’s entire control panel, allowing me to remotely operate the camera, and thus pan, tilt, zoom, focus, and adjust the exposure. With these advanced tools, I was able to take control of the camera as if it were my own and subvert its intended purpose in order to make photographs.
Maintaining such dynamic control and close observation of New Town and its residents yielded a considerable amount of imagery. These photographs allude to the visual language of amateur and surveillance footage and recall the type of “evidentiary” images that have become a part of our shared vernacular image culture, and that are often used to validate public paranoia. Films and photographs depicting suspected criminals, missing persons, and national tragedies are disseminated by popular news and social media, and blown-up grainy film and pixelated imagery are often equated with suspected suspicious activity.
This project follows the daily lives of New Town residents to reflect on the expansive use of surveillance technologies, the increasing loss of privacy, and the heightened sense of anxiety and vulnerability that define American life in the early twenty-first century. My simultaneous role as both narrator and imagemaker complicates the ethical boundaries between my own acts of surveillance and social critique. Through my photography, I hope to question the ethical failures, structures, and misuses of power that have resulted from this “see-something-say-something” culture of fear and social manipulation.