The Power Plant

Trevor Paglen


Courtesy Trevor Paglen

Trevor Paglen was born in 1974 in Camp Springs, Maryland. Trained as a geographer and photographer, Paglen makes the invisible visible by documenting the American surveillance state of the 21st century. From his vantage points at various public locations, he photographs distant military facilities, capturing extreme telephoto images of stealth drones. Turning his vision to the night sky, he traces the paths of information-gathering satellites.

In his series of Mylar satellites, Paglen applies advanced engineering to the creation of non-functional objects, stripping technology of its intended purpose and hoping to launch his own time capsule of photographs into geostationary orbit. Tracing the ways in which the convergence of aesthetics, industrial design, and politics influence how we see and understand the world, he shows us images of the American West, originally photographed for military use and now considered examples of classic photography. In images that go beyond straightforward journalistic documentation, Paglen gives voice to shifting ideas of the landscape of the American West, humankind’s place in the cosmos, and the surveillance state.

Trevor Paglen received a BA from the University of California at Berkeley (1996), an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (2002), and a PhD in Geography from the University of California at Berkeley (2008). He has had residencies at Artpace (2013) and MIT (2011), and his honors include a Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship (2011); Aperture West Prize (2008); SFMoMA SECA Award (2008); Art Matters Grant (2008); and an Artadia Grant (2007).

His work has appeared in major exhibitions at the Cartagena Biennial (2014); Center for Art Design and Visual Culture, Baltimore (2013); Van Abbemuseum (2013); Protocinema, Istanbul (2013); Creative Time (2012); Liverpool Biennial (2012); Guangzhou Triennial (2012); Secession, Vienna (2010); Kunsthall Oslo (2010); Kunsthalle Giessen (2010); FotoFest Biennial (2010); Istanbul Biennial (2009); Havana Biennial (2009); Berkeley Art Museum (2008); Taipei Biennial (2008); and the California College of Arts and Crafts (2002). Trevor Paglen lives and works in New York.