Art21 Extended Play

Trevor Paglen Flexes His Rights

Trevor Paglen photographing a military airbase in the Tonopah Test Range in Nevada. Production still from the series ART21 Exclusive. © ART21, Inc. 2015. Cinematography: Kyle Stryker.

“To go and photograph an airbase is not only to photograph something but it is to insist on one’s right to photograph. You’re flexing that right.” —Trevor Paglen

Today’s ART21 Exclusive features Trevor Paglen taking photographs for his Limit Telephotography series from the edge of the Tonopah Test Range, a classified military site in the Nevada desert. By attaching a telescope to his camera through a special lens, Paglen is able to photograph military structures and classified aircraft from publicly accessible land many miles away. Because of atmospheric conditions such as convection waves and dust, the images are distorted and often unidentifiable. As a result, Paglen says he is not only photographing something at an extreme distance but also “photographing the limitations of one’s own vision.” In referencing the highly descriptive titles he gives to each photograph, Paglen says, “It’s not clear to me that images really mean anything other than the meanings we attribute to them.”

CREDITS: Producer: Ian Forster. Consulting Producers: Wesley Miller & Nick Ravich. Interview: Nick Ravich & Susan Sollins. Camera: Kyle Stryker. Sound: Marcus Goudge & John Zecca. Editor: Morgan Riles. Artwork Courtesy: Trevor Paglen & Metro Pictures. Special Thanks: David Berezin. Theme Music: Peter Foley.

ART21 Exclusive is supported, in part, by 21c Museum Hotel, and by individual contributors.