Trevor Paglen, National Security Agency, 2013. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
SAN FRANCISCO — Trevor Paglen, a journalist, geographer, artist, and author, has won the 2014 EFF Pioneer Award. Paglen won the annual award given by Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) for his counter-surveillance photography. Other winners include Frank La Rue, United Nations Special Rapporteur and Zoe Lofgren, United States Representative, who has relentlessly focused on technology, innovation, and free speech in congress.
The EFF is a not for profit organization committed to defending the civil rights in the digital world. Since inception in 1990, the organization has persistently fought to ensure the rights and freedom of people as technology grows. Through impact litigation, policy analysis, grassroots activism, and technology development, the EFF has striven to inform technology users about new developments as well as “clear the way for open source software, encryption, security research, file sharing tools, and a world of emerging technologies”
Speaking on the award and winners, EFF Executive Director Shari Steele said “Each of our Pioneer Award winners has helped the world understand how technology and civil liberties are interwoven into our lives, and each is still working to protect our freedom and fight abuses,” EFF Executive Director Shari Steele said. “We are so proud to be able to present them with this year’s Pioneer Awards.”
Paglen’s award continues to excite many in the art and technology community. An eclectic artist who has forged his own artistic direction, Paglen’s works combine science, journalism, and politics with art in a way that reflects his activism. The counter-surveillance artist, whose visual art has been exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Tate Modern in London, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, among many other places, is committed to turning the camera on the watchers. In recent projects, the artist has been documenting U.S. government drone flights. Using high-end optical systems to photograph top-secret governmental sites, and tracking classified spacecraft in Earth’s orbit, Paglen has drawn attention to the consequences of a surveillance society.
For Paglen, photography is a tool for exposing mass surveillance systems in a country that preaches freedom of expression. His works are poignant and have become conversational pieces amongst those who are concerned about a mass surveillance society. Early this year, Creative Time commissioned the artist to create a series. The result of that commission done in conjunction with The Intercept, a publication founded by documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras, and journalists Glenn Greenwald and Jeremy is a series of high contrast nighttime photographs which the artist titled Watching the Watchers. You can see more of Paglen’s counter-surveillance photography and Watching the Watchers project on Flickr and Wikimedia Commons.