Issue 23

Issue 22

Issue 21

Issue 20

Issue 19

Letter from the Editor –Lindsay Preston Zappas
Parasites in Love –Travis Diehl
To Crush Absolute On Patrick Staff and
Destroying the Institution
–Jonathan Griffin
Victoria Fu:
Camera Obscured
–Cat Kron
Resurgence of Resistance How Pattern & Decoration's Popularity
Can Help Reshape the Canon
–Catherine Wagley
Trace, Place, Politics Julie Mehretu's Coded Abstractions
–Jessica Simmons
Exquisite L.A.: Featuring: Friedrich Kunath,
Tristan Unrau, and Nevine Mahmoud
–Claressinka Anderson & Joe Pugliese
Buy the Issue In our Online Shop
Reviews April Street
at Vielmetter Los Angeles
–Aaron Horst

Chiraag Bhakta
at Human Resources
–Julie Weitz

Don’t Think: Tom, Joe
and Rick Potts

at POTTS
–Matt Stromberg

Sarah McMenimen
at Garden
–Michael Wright

The Medea Insurrection
at the Wende Museum
–Jennifer Remenchik

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Mike Kelley
at Hauser & Wirth
–Angella d’Avignon

Issue 18

Letter from the Editor –Lindsay Preston Zappas
The Briar and the Tar Nayland Blake at the ICA LA
and Matthew Marks Gallery
–Travis Diehl
Putting Aesthetics
to Hope
Tracking Photography’s Role
in Feminist Communities
– Catherine Wagley
Instagram STARtists
and Bad Painting
– Anna Elise Johnson
Interview with Jamillah James – Lindsay Preston Zappas
Working Artists Featuring Catherine Fairbanks,
Paul Pescador, and Rachel Mason
Text: Lindsay Preston Zappas
Photos: Jeff McLane
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop
Reviews Children of the Sun
at LADIES’ ROOM
– Jessica Simmons

Derek Paul Jack Boyle
at SMART OBJECTS
–Aaron Horst

Karl Holmqvist
at House of Gaga, Los Angeles
–Lee Purvey

Katja Seib
at Château Shatto
–Ashton Cooper

Jeanette Mundt
at Overduin & Co.
–Matt Stromberg

Issue 17

Letter From the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Green Chip David Hammons
at Hauser & Wirth
–Travis Diehl
Whatever Gets You
Through the Night
The Artists of Dilexi
and Wartime Trauma
–Jonathan Griffin
Generous Collectors How the Grinsteins
Supported Artists
–Catherine Wagley
Interview with
Donna Huanca
–Lindsy Preston Zappas
Working Artist Featuring Ragen Moss, Justen LeRoy,
and Bari Ziperstein
Text: Lindsay Preston Zappas
Photos: Jeff McLane
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop
Reviews Sarah Lucas
at the Hammer Museum
–Yxta Maya Murray

George Herms and Terence Koh
at Morán Morán
–Matt Stromberg

Hannah Hur
at Bel Ami
–Michael Wright

Sebastian Hernandez
at NAVEL
–Julie Weitz

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Alex Israel
at Greene Naftali
–Rosa Tyhurst

Issue 16

Trulee Hall's Untamed Magic Catherine Wagley
Ingredients for a Braver Art Scene Ceci Moss
I Shit on Your Graves Travis Diehl
Interview with Ruby Neri Jonathan Griffin
Carolee Schneemann and the Art of Saying Yes! Chelsea Beck
Exquisite L.A. Claressinka Anderson
Joe Pugliese
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop
Reviews Ry Rocklen
at Honor Fraser
–Cat Kron

Rob Thom
at M+B
–Lindsay Preston Zappas

Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age
of Black Power, 1963-1983
at The Broad
–Matt Stromberg

Anna Sew Hoy & Diedrick Brackens
at Various Small Fires
–Aaron Horst

Julia Haft-Candell & Suzan Frecon
at Parrasch Heijnen
–Jessica Simmons

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Shahryar Nashat
at Swiss Institute
–Christie Hayden

Issue 15

Letter From the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Letter to the Editor
Men on Women
Geena Brown
Eyes Without a Voice
Julian Rosefeldt's Manifesto
Christina Catherine Martinez
Seven Minute Dream Machine
Jordan Wolfson's (Female figure)
Travis Diehl
Laughing in Private
Vanessa Place's Rape Jokes
Catherine Wagley
Interview with
Rosha Yaghmai
Laura Brown
Exquisite L.A.
Featuring: Patrick Martinez,
Ramiro Gomez, and John Valadez
Claressinka Anderson
Joe Pugliese
Buy the Issue In our Online Shop
Reviews Outliers and American
Vanguard Art at LACMA
–Jonathan Griffin

Sperm Cult
at LAXART
–Matt Stromberg

Kahlil Joseph
at MOCA PDC
–Jessica Simmons

Ingrid Luche
at Ghebaly Gallery
–Lindsay Preston Zappas

Matt Paweski
at Park View / Paul Soto
–John Zane Zappas

Trenton Doyle Hancock
at Shulamit Nazarian
–Colony Little

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Catherine Opie
at Lehmann Maupin
–Angella d'Avignon

Issue 14

Letter From the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Celeste Dupuy-Spencer and Figurative Religion Catherine Wagley
Lynch in Traffic Travis Diehl
The Remixed Symbology of Nina Chanel Abney Lindsay Preston Zappas
Interview with Kulapat Yantrasast Christie Hayden
Exquisite L.A.
Featuring: Sandra de la Loza, Gloria Galvez, and Steve Wong
Claressinka Anderson
Photos: Joe Pugliese
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop
Reviews Raúl de Nieves
at Freedman Fitzpatrick
-Aaron Horst

Gertrud Parker
at Parker Gallery
-Ashton Cooper

Robert Yarber
at Nicodim Gallery
-Jonathan Griffin

Nikita Gale
at Commonwealth & Council
-Simone Krug

Lari Pittman
at Regen Projects
-Matt Stromberg

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Eckhaus Latta
at the Whitney Museum
of American Art
-Angella d'Avignon

Issue 13

Letter From the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Letter to the Editor Julie Weitz with Angella d'Avignon
Don't Make
Everything Boring
Catherine Wagley
The Collaborative Art
World of Norm Laich
Matt Stromberg
Oddly Satisfying Art Travis Diehl
Made in L.A. 2018 Reviews Claire de Dobay Rifelj
Jennifer Remenchik
Aaron Horst
Exquisite L.A.
Featuring: Anna Sew Hoy, Guadalupe Rosales, and Shizu Saldamando
Claressinka Anderson
Photos: Joe Pugliese
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop
Reviews It's Snowing in LA
at AA|LA
–Matthew Lax

Fiona Conner
at the MAK Center
–Thomas Duncan

Show 2
at The Gallery @ Michael's
–Simone Krug

Deborah Roberts
at Luis De Jesus Los Angeles
–Ikechukwu Casmir Onyewuenyi

Mimi Lauter
at Blum & Poe
–Jessica Simmons

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Math Bass
at Mary Boone
–Ashton Cooper

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Condo New York
–Laura Brown

Issue 12

Poetic Energies and
Radical Celebrations:
Senga Nengudi and Maren Hassinger
Simone Krug
Interior States of the Art Travis Diehl
Perennial Bloom:
Florals in Feminism
and Across L.A.
Angella d'Avignon
The Mess We're In Catherine Wagley
Interview with Christina Quarles Ashton Cooper
Object Project
Featuring Suné Woods, Michelle Dizon,
and Yong Soon Min
Lindsay Preston Zappas
Photos: Jeff McLane
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop
Reviews Meleko Mokgosi
at The Fowler Museum at UCLA
-Jessica Simmons

Chris Kraus
at Chateau Shatto
- Aaron Horst

Ben Sanders
at Ochi Projects
- Matt Stromberg

iris yirei hsu
at the Women's Center
for Creative Work
- Hana Cohn

Harald Szeemann
at the Getty Research Institute
- Olivian Cha

Ali Prosch
at Bed and Breakfast
- Jennifer Remenchik

Reena Spaulings
at Matthew Marks
- Thomas Duncan

Issue 11

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Museum as Selfie Station Matt Stromberg
Accessible as Humanly as Possible Catherine Wagley
On Laura Owens on Laura Owens Travis Diehl
Interview with Puppies Puppies Jonathan Griffin
Object Project Lindsay Preston Zappas, Jeff McLane
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop
Reviews Dulce Dientes
at Rainbow in Spanish
- Aaron Horst

Adrián Villas Rojas
at The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA
- Lindsay Preston Zappas

Nevine Mahmoud
at M+B
- Angella D'Avignon

Radical Women: Latin American Art, 1960- 1985
at the Hammer Museum
- Thomas Duncan

Hannah Greely and William T. Wiley
at Parker Gallery
- Keith J. Varadi

David Hockney
at The Metropolitan Museum of Art (L.A. in N.Y.)
- Ashton Cooper

Edgar Arceneaux
at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (L.A. in S.F.)
- Hana Cohn

Issue 10

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Barely Living with Art:
The Labor of Domestic
Spaces in Los Angeles
Eli Diner
She Wanted Adventure:
Dwan, Butler, Mizuno, Copley
Catherine Wagley
The Languages of
All-Women Exhibitions
Lindsay Preston Zappas
L.A. Povera Travis Diehl
On Eclipses:
When Language
and Photography Fail
Jessica Simmons
Interview with
Hamza Walker
Julie Wietz
Reviews Cheyenne Julien
at Smart Objects

Paul Mpagi Sepuya
at team bungalow

Ravi Jackson
at Richard Telles

Tactility of Line
at Elevator Mondays

Trigger: Gender as a Tool as a Weapon
at the New Museum
(L.A. in N.Y.)
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop
Object Project
Featuring: Rosha Yaghmai,
Dianna Molzan, and Patrick Jackson
Lindsay Preston Zappas
Photos by Jeff McLane
Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA
Reviews
Regen Projects
Ibid Gallery
One National Gay & Lesbian Archives and MOCA PDC
The Mistake Room
Luis De Jesus Gallery
the University Art Gallery at CSULB
the Autry Museum

Issue 9

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Women on the Plinth Catherine Wagley
Us & Them, Now & Then:
Reconstituting Group Material
Travis Diehl
The Offerings of EJ Hill
Ikechukwu Casmir Onyewuenyi
Interview with Jenni Sorkin Carmen Winant
Letter to the Editor Lady Parts, Lady Arts
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop
Object Project
Featuring: Rebecca Morris,
Linda Stark, Alex Olson
Lindsay Preston Zappas
Photos by Jeff McClane
Reviews Mark Bradford
at the Venice Biennale

Broken Language
at Shulamit Nazarian

Artists of Color
at the Underground Museum

Anthony Lepore & Michael Henry Hayden
at Del Vaz Projects

Home
at LACMA

Analia Saban at
Sprueth Magers

Issue 8

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Kanye Westworld Travis Diehl
@richardhawkins01 Thomas Duncan
Support Structures:
Alice Könitz and LAMOA
Catherine Wagley
Interview with
Penny Slinger
Eliza Swann
Exquisite L.A.
Featuring:
taisha paggett
Ashley Hunt
Young Chung
Intro by Claressinka Anderson
Portraits by Joe Pugliese
Letter to the Editor
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop
Reviews Alessandro Pessoli
at Marc Foxx

Jennie Jieun Lee
at The Pit

Trisha Baga
at 356 Mission

Jimmie Durham
at The Hammer

Parallel City
at Ms. Barbers

Jason Rhodes
at Hauser & Wirth

Issue 7

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Generous
Structures
Catherine Wagley
Put on a Happy Face:
On Dynasty Handbag
Travis Diehl
The Limits of Animality:
Simone Forti at ISCP
(L.A. in N.Y.)
Ikechukwu Casmir Onyewuenyi
More Wound Than Ruin:
Evaluating the
"Human Condition"
Jessica Simmons
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop
Exquisite L.A.
Featuring:
Brenna Youngblood
Todd Gray
Rafa Esparza
Intro by Claressinka Anderson
Portraits by Joe Pugliese
Reviews Creature
at The Broad

Sam Pulitzer & Peter Wachtler
at House of Gaga // Reena Spaulings Fine Art

Karl Haendel
at Susanne Vielmetter

Wolfgang Tillmans
at Regen Projects

Ma
at Chateau Shatto

The Rat Bastard Protective Association
at the Landing

Issue 6

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Kenneth Tam
's Basement
Travis Diehl
The Female
Cool School
Catherine Wagley
The Rise
of the L.A.
Art Witch
Amanda Yates Garcia
Interview with
Mernet Larsen
Julie Weitz
Agnes Martin
at LACMA
Jessica Simmons
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop
Exquisite L.A.
Featuring:
Analia Saban
Ry Rocklen
Sarah Cain
Intro by Claressinka Anderson
Portraits by Joe Pugliese
Reviews
Made in L.A. 2016
at The Hammer Museum

Doug Aitken
at The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA

Mertzbau
at Tif Sigfrids

Jean-Pascal Flavian and Mika Tajima
at Kayne Griffin Corcoran

Mark A. Rodruigez
at Park View

The Weeping Line
Organized by Alter Space
at Four Six One Nine
(S.F. in L.A.)

Issue 5

Letter form the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Non-Fiction
at The Underground Museum
Catherine Wagley
The Art of Birth Carmen Winant
Escape from Bunker Hill
John Knight
at REDCAT
Travis Diehl
Ed Boreal Speaks Benjamin Lord
Art Advice (from Men) Sarah Weber
Routine Pleasures
at the MAK Center
Jonathan Griffin
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop
Exquisite L.A.
Featuring:
Fay Ray
John Baldessari
Claire Kennedy
Intro by Claressinka Anderson
Portraits by Joe Pugliese
Reviews Revolution in the Making
at Hauser Wirth & Schimmel

Carl Cheng
at Cherry and Martin

Joan Snyder
at Parrasch Heijnen Gallery

Elanor Antin
at Diane Rosenstein

Performing the Grid
at Ben Maltz Gallery
at Otis College of Art & Design

Laura Owens
at The Wattis Institute
(L.A. in S.F.)

Issue 4

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Moon, laub, and Love Catherine Wagley
Walk Artisanal Jonathan Griffin
Reconsidering
Marva Marrow's
Inside the L.A. Artist
Anthony Pearson
Mystery Science Thater:
Diana Thater
at LACMA
Aaron Horst
Informal Feminisms Federica Bueti and Jan Verwoert
Marva Marrow Photographs
Lita Albuquerque
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop
Interiors and Interiority:
Njideka Akunyili Crosby
Char Jansen
Reviews L.A. Art Fairs

Material Art Fair, Mexico City

Rain Room
at LACMA

Evan Holloway
at David Kordansky Gallery

Histories of a Vanishing Present: A Prologue
at The Mistake Room

Carter Mull
at fused space
(L.A. in S.F.)

Awol Erizku
at FLAG Art Foundation
(L.A. in N.Y.)

Issue 3

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Le Louvre, Las Vegas Evan Moffitt
iPhones, Flesh,
and the Word:
F.B.I.
at Arturo Bandini
Lindsay Preston Zappas
Women Talking About Barney Catherine Wagley
Lingua Ignota:
Faith Wilding
at The Armory Center
for the Arts
and LOUDHAILER
Benjamin Lord
A Conversation
with Amalia Ulman
Char Jansen
How We Practice Carmen Winant
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop
Share Your Piece
of the Puzzle
Federica Bueti
Amanda Ross-Ho Photographs
Erik Frydenborg
Reviews Honeydew
at Michael Thibault

Fred Tomaselli
at California State University, Fullerton

Trisha Donnelly
at Matthew Marks Gallery

Bradford Kessler
at ASHES/ASHES

Issue 2

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Hot Tears Carmen Winant
Slow View:
Molly Larkey
Anna Breininger and Kate Whitlock
Americanicity's Paintings:
Orion Martin
at Favorite Goods
Tracy Jeanne Rosenthal
Layers of Leimert Park Catherine Wagley
Junkspace Junk Food:
Parker Ito
at Kaldi, Smart Objects,
White Cube, and
Château Shatto
Evan Moffitt
Melrose Hustle Keith Vaughn
Reviews Mary Ried Kelley
at The Hammer Museum

Tongues Untied
at MOCA Pacific Design Center

No Joke
at Tanya Leighton
(L.A. in Berlin)
Snap Reviews Martin Basher at Anat Ebgi
Body Parts I-V at ASHES ASHES
Eve Fowler at Mier Gallery
Matt Siegle at Park View
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop
Max Maslansky Photographs
Monica Majoli
at the Tom of Finland Foundation
White Lee, Black Lee:
William Pope.L’s "Reenactor"
Travis Diehl
Dora Budor Interview Char Jensen

Issue 1

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
MEAT PHYSICS/
Metaphysical L.A.
Travis Diehl
Art for Art’s Sake:
L.A. in the 1990s
Anthony Pearson
A Dialogue in Two
Synchronous Atmospheres
Erik Morse
with Alexandra Grant
SOGTFO
at François Ghebaly
Jonathan Griffin
#studio #visit
with #devin #kenny
@barnettcohen
Mateo Tannatt
Photographs
Jibade-Khalil Huffman
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop
Slow View:
Discussion on One Work
Anna Breininger
with Julian Rogers
Reviews Pierre Huyghe
at LACMA

Mernet Larsen
at Various Small Fires

John Currin
at Gagosian, Beverly Hills

Pat O'Niell
at Cherry and Martin

A New Rhythm
at Park View

Unwatchable Scenes and
Other Unreliable Images...
at Public Fiction

Charles Gaines
at The Hammer Museum

Henry Taylor
at Blum & Poe/ Untitled
(L.A. in N.Y.)
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On Making Photographs in a Surveillance State

Leer en Español

Yuvraj Khanna, Jannette from Obscured (2020). Image courtesy of the artist.

Last summer’s uprisings were likely the most photographed in history, with not only mainstream press in attendance, but near-every attendee equipped with their own networked camera,1 live-streaming and hashtagging the protests, creating layers upon layers of unquantifiable documentation. The rampant circulation of these images—often shared in real-time— propelled the movement on and offline, allowing the summer’s events to swell into a global uprising. When these images were quickly co-opted by the state, with law enforcement using them to retaliate against BLM activists, photographers online began to employ a variety of visual answers to the problem of privacy, blotting out the faces of protestors with digital ink. Though they have been largely written off as illegitimate and unethical by legacy media, the scrubbed images offered by activist photographers represent earnest attempts at a solution, functioning to describe both the protests and the contemporary surveillance landscape.2 

By contrast, as reports of the doxxing emerged, several newsrooms issued op-ed style statements, doubling down on their ethical guidelines for “unaltered” photographs and asserting their right—and duty—to document the events. NPR’s public editor Kelly McBride wrote, regrettably, that most protestors “have chosen to be part of these protests fully aware they are entering a public space and at personal risk.”3 The notion that being in public constitutes consent to be photographed has long been adopted by photographers. Some of them are Garry Winogrand or Daniel Arnold types— photographers who clock miles on the streets of grungy metropolises, a camera slung over each shoulder, shoving their lenses in faces of passersby. New technologies, which have made photography faster, easier, and far less conspicuous, have only further proliferated this method of picture-making (Winogrand’s successors and epigones; Bruce Gilden’s flashgun street shots; most of celebrity-paparazzo Ron Galella’s archive; et al.). These are the pictures that have come to characterize the vernacular of popular street and documentary photography; busy city streets; dynamic, odd angles; the high contrast light of high noon pulling long shadows over the pavement. The previous generation of photographers pass these methods down to the next, who embolden one another and commiserate in their cool, unabashed, and sometimes aggressive pursuit. Many great pictures have been made by not asking for permission. 

The problem of permission is drastically multiplied when these photographs are exploited to further the surveillance practices of the state: beyond on-the-ground threats to safety, surveillance extends danger into the undefined future. The increasingly sophisticated scraping of open-source intelligence (OSINT) data, which rummages through publicly available images and “internet breadcrumbs” in order to reconstruct events and identities, allowed law enforcement to target activists and organizers at an unprecedented scale during the protests, their tactics profoundly aided by unwitting photographers and social media users everywhere.4 Of particular concern: the probably-very-illegal facial recognition software developed by privately-held company Clearview AI,5 with a database of over three billion images scraped from the internet, is licensed by at least 2,400 law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, ICE, and Interpol6 (not including a 26% increased usage of the software after the Capitol riot in January7). 

Perhaps feeling more of a sense of duty to their subjects than to any particular written set of ethics, activist photographers took the lead in protecting the privacy of protestors. Some simply posted frames that did not highlight their subjects’ faces, or relied on the convenient presence of Covid-era face coverings, which, as it turned out, functioned dually to protect against the spread of coronavirus and facial recognition technologies.8 New York-based photographer Yuvraj Khanna utilized these strategies in a series of black-and-white portraits made specifically of people “concerned with obscuring their identities even while being active in protests.”9 Taken at night with direct flash, Khanna’s subjects are pictured with their eyes closed or silhouetted, only the thin white outlines of their body visible. 

Other photographers opted for more obtrusive solutions in post-production, superimposing a black censor bar across the eyes of protestors. On Instagram, filmmaker Adja Gildersleve shared a photograph of a protestor in New York City in front of bright, blurred, smoke- and fire-filled chaos. The subject stands with arms outstretched and mouth open as if to yell, his shirt inexplicably hanging around his neck, exposing his biceps and lower chest. Almost subtly, a black bar covers his eyes—his identity concealed, the power of the image contained in his singular gesture. Artist Sammy Rivera took a similar approach in sharing a black-and-white photograph of a Philadelphia protest, the faces, tattoos, and even branded logos on the clothing of protestors crudely blotted out with a shaky digital marker. In the image, a cop sprays a woman with a chemical irritant, his paper mask dangling from one ear. She turns away and toward the camera, a black censor bar added to conceal her eyes. Collaged below the photograph, a grainy, cropped detail shows only the cop’s zoomed-in name badge, which reads: “SPILLANE.” The crop emphasizes the parallel shape made by the censor bar and badge, offering unmistakable commentary on whose identity need be protected.

Black Lives Matter protest in Philadelphia, PA. Photo: Sammy Rivera (@sam.myrivera).

Los Angeles-based photographer Keegan Holden proposed a broader solution, digitally cutting protestors out of his images entirely, leaving behind only their flat, whited-out silhouettes. In one photograph taken during a large demonstration in the Fairfax District, a cop holds their outstretched arm up to the face of a cut-out protestor. A mess of cop cars and a large billow of smoke populate the background, along with a number of miniature protestors, their anonymous bodies like paper dolls. As in Rivera’s edits, which look like they were drawn with his finger, Holden’s approach is one of utility, meant as a quick and clean solution, foregrounding function over aesthetic.10 Still, these solutions evidence a human hand and read as gestures of care, distinguishing them from the user-friendly but blanket software solutions tech companies have offered. Amidst the protests, the encrypted messaging app Signal released a feature to auto-detect and blur faces in photographs,11 rendering them as boxy, flesh-colored pixels. A team at Stanford developed an open-source bot that uses AI to plaster custom-sized brown emoji fists over protestors’ faces, a strategy that situates these images deeply in their time, but imbues them with an inappropriately cartoonish quality.12, Github, 2020, https://github.com/stanfordmlgroup/blm.] Though these software solutions are encouraging, the tech is still clunky; the hand-drawn manipulations far more effective in truly obscuring the identity of the protestors.

While graphically similar to some of the tech-based solutions, Davion Alston’s series stepping on the ant bed (2020) results from a much slower and accumulative analog process, recalling the photomontages of John Baldessari in which the artist replaced instructive portions of photographs with primary-colored stickers. In ant bed, grainy, black-and-white photographs taken during a Georgia protest are collaged—some images partly-obscured by others—with colored price stickers applied to the protestors’ faces. The layering of images lends a similar effect as Annette Lemieux’s painting Black Mass (1991), in which she replaces not the faces, but the protest signs in a civil rights march with black squares, like Polaroid backings. But where Lemieux’s act of censorship feels like a despondent commentary on the never-ending battle for civil rights—the men left without a message—Alston’s colored dots offer pathways through the images, the artist visually unifying the protestors and extending a form of safety to those who are seeking it.13 Through the distinct methods by which they work to resist surveillance, these photographers offer not only functional solutions, but conceptually rigorous works that together engage the question of how photography visually answers this moment. 

The spirit with which these photographers—none of whom were “on assignment”—sought answers to the problem of privacy contrasted newsrooms’ perceived lack of care toward their subjects. Authority Collective, an organization that empowers lens-based artists of color and advocates for accountability in the industry, released a May 31 statement offering something of a guide to photographing police brutality protests. They wrote that, “Prioritizing your legal protection to perform the act of photography over the safety of people fighting their fatal lack of protection in society is a manifestation of privilege that defies logic and highlights photojournalism’s worst inherent tendencies.”14 This privilege was only compounded by a longstanding problem: the fact that most of the photojournalists commissioned by major publications were white men. The deployment of a thousand white guys with cameras into BLM protests nationwide—some reportedly flown across the country on assignment amidst a global pandemic—is not only a question of bodies in space, but also of who gets to play record-keeper.15 When white photographers uploaded their images online to the inadvertent aid of law enforcement, they not only doxxed their subjects, but were themselves implicated in a longstanding project of surveillance that has historically and continually targeted Blackness (and is perhaps now more dangerous than ever, given the racial biases of AI-surveillance technologies16). Like the camera, AI feigns neutrality, but facial recognition systems misidentify Black people at alarming rates, and decision-making algorithms are built on data that reflects racially-biased over-policing, creating a feed-forward loop that disproportionally implicates people of color.17

The implication of whiteness also complicates the conversation around the visual solutions proposed by photographers who edited protestors out of their images. In Wired, photo editor and co-founder of Diversify Photo, Brent Lewis, asks why so many would protest during a global pandemic “just to have their image blurred, hidden, whitewashed?”18 While Lewis somewhat conflates the desire for visibility with a desire to be photographed, he rightly acknowledges the complex implications of removing the identities of Black protestors, asserting that the issue of consent is multi-directional. Even as a form of protection, erasing the identity of protestors is a loaded and complicated act—especially for photography, which since its inception has been inequitable in its representation of non-white and marginalized peoples.19 Selectively editing out the subject of a photograph risks re-engaging the colonial problems of the medium and gives implicit merit to the notion (propagated by a self-protective, racist state) that the protestors’ actions are inherently dangerous. Lewis argues instead for a more responsible journalism—one in which journalists don’t “parachute”20 into protests without thinking about the history of photographing Black people, and understanding the stakes of the community they are entering and representing.

Still, an ethical code that has been driven by developments in photographic technology need now be driven by the cultural and social implications of that technology. Together, the pace of today’s wild-west, “new media” newsroom,21 the proliferation of social media, and the increasing capability of the surveillance state represent a revolutionary shift that demands broader photographic reform. The media has long engaged photography’s false promise of neutrality, defending potential harm to its subjects on the basis of an ethical code that aggrandizes the documentary (read: “objective”) ability of the medium. It has failed to reckon with photography’s hierarchical visual politics, which, as writer Christina Aushana and photojournalist (and Authority Collective co-founder) Tara Pixley write in Nieman Reports, “are, and have always been deeply embedded in carceral systems of control.”22 Photography’s story is one of dominion; its self-characterization as “a force for liberation”23 a falsehood.

The solutions proposed by activist photographers are imperfect, and must be considered alongside questions of who holds the camera, who is being photographed, and how the dynamics of power and consent can be reconciled in a medium which so often approaches all that it sees as ripe for the taking. But rather than mourn the kinds of images that will be lost, it is worthwhile to consider the possible futures that solving the problems of privacy and protection offer photography, both visually and in service of a less hierarchical, exploitative future for the medium. Though still solutions-in-progress, these photographers propose images for our new era, offering photographic pathways in necessary dialogue with our contemporary surveillance culture.

Erin F. O’Leary writes about and makes photographs in Los Angeles.

Keegan Holden, Fairfax Rebellion I (May 30, 2020). Archival pigment print, 20 × 30 inches. Image courtesy of the artist.

Davion Alston, stepping on the ant bed (2020). Image courtesy of the artist.

Annette Lemieux, Black Mass (1991). Latex, acrylic, and oil on canvas, 96 × 105 × 2 inches. Promised gift of Emily Fisher Landau, © Annette Lemieux. Image courtesy of the artist and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.

This essay was originally published in Carla issue 24.

  1. Nathan Jurgenson, The Social Photo: On Photography and Social Media (New York: Verso Books, 2019).
  2. Especially since the suspicious deaths, and outright murders, of six activists connected to Ferguson, awareness around protestors’ privacy has been mounting. Robert Cohen’s Pulitzer-winning photograph of Edward Crawford, which propelled Crawford into the limelight as a symbol of resistance, is oft-cited in the privacy v. photojournalism debate—one year later, Crawford was arrested, and two years later, his death was ruled a suicide.
  3. Kelly McBride, “Should Images Of Protestors Be Blurred To Protect Them From Retribution?,” NPR, June 18, 2020, https://www.npr.org/sections/publiceditor/2020/06/18/879223467/should-images-of-protesters-be-blurred-to-protect-them-from-retribution.
  4. Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai, “A Tattoo and an Etsy Shirt Led Cops to Arrest Woman Accused of Burning Cop Cars,” Vice, June 17, 2020, https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/bv8j8w/a-tattoo-and-an-etsy-shirt-led-cops-to-arrest-woman-accused-of-burning-cop-cars/.
  5. Mass violations of privacy were committed against private citizens post-9/11 under the 2001 Patriot Act (rebranded in 2015 as the USA Freedom Act), the expansion of which is currently underway under a similar guise of public safety (e.g. contact tracing) and the full implications of which will not be known for years to come.
  6. Ryan Mac, Caroline Haskins, and Logan McDonald, “Clearview’s Facial Recognition App Has Been Used By The Justice Department, ICE, Macy’s, Walmart, And The NBA,” Buzzfeed News, https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/ryanmac/clearview-ai-fbi-ice-global-law-enforcement.
  7. Johana Bhuiyan, “Clearview AI uses your online photos to instantly ID you. That’s a problem, lawsuit says,” Los Angeles Times, March 9, 2021, https://www.latimes.com/business/technology/story/2021-03-09/clearview-ai-lawsuit-privacy-violations.
  8. Rebecca Heilweil, “Masks can fool facial recognition systems, but the algorithms are learning fast,” Vox, July 28, 2020, https://www.vox.com/recode/2020/7/28/21340674/face-masks-facial-recognition-surveillance-nist.
  9. Kenneth Dickerman and Yuvraj Khanna, “This photographer is addressing the dilemma of how to represent protestors in an age of social media and facial recognition technology,” The Washington Post, August 3, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/photography/2020/08/03/this-photographer-is-addressing-dilemma-how-represent-protestors-an-age-social-media-facial-recognition-technology/.
  10. Keegan Holden, interviewed by author, January 12, 2021.
  11. Devin Coldewey, “Signal now has built-in face blurring for photos,” TechCrunch, June 4, 2020, https://techcrunch.com/2020/06/04/signal-now-has-built-in-face-blurring-for-photos/.
  12. Krishna Patel, JQ, and Sharon Zhou (stanfordmlgroup/blm), BLM Privacy Bot [source code
  13. Antwaun Sargent, “The Queer Black Artists Building Worlds of Desire,” Aperture, December 8, 2020, https://aperture.org/editorial/the-queer-black-artists-building-worlds-of-desire/.
  14. Authority Collective, “Do No Harm: Photographing Police Brutality Protests,” May 31, 2020, https://drive.google.com/file/d/1hFvB_cGM_TfVVNuXV-Jg6mO4DIPLvNoC/view.
  15. Law enforcement press pass policies function to gatekeep, limit, and control who has access and protection when covering these events—multimedia journalist Lexis-Olivier Ray wrote on Twitter that the LAPD only issued nine press passes in 2020 due to a “software issue.” Lexis-Olivier Ray (@ShotOn35mm), March 9, 2021, https://twitter.com/ShotOn35mm/status/1369453461864128515.
  16. David Berreby, “Can We Make Our Robots Less Biased Than We Are?,” The New York Times, November 22, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/22/science/artificial-intelligence-robots-racism-police.html.
  17. Alex Najibi, “Racial Discrimination in Face Recognition Technology,” https://sitn.hms.harvard.edu/flash/2020/racial-discrimination-in-face-recognition-technology/.
  18. Brent Lewis, “Blurring Faces Is Anti-Journalistic and Anti-Human,” Wired, June 30, 2020, https://www.wired.com/story/opinion-blurring-faces-is-anti-journalistic-and-anti-human/.
  19. This is true both in terms of colonial prospects and the actual chemistry of the medium: similar to the racial biases of AI and facial recognition technologies, one of the first erasures in photography existed in the chemical emulsion of color film, which was calibrated, by default, for white skin and could not with any nuance or accuracy capture darker skin tones. It was only after chocolate manufacturers in the 1960s and ’70s complained that they “weren’t getting the right brown tones on the chocolates” in their photographs that Kodak began to address the problem. Sarah Lewis, “The Racial Bias Built Into Photography,” The New York Times, April 25, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/25/lens/sarah-lewis-racial-bias-photography.html.
  20. Brent Lewis.
  21. Daniel R. Bersak, “Ethics in Photojournalism: Past, Present, and Future” (master’s thesis, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2006), https://web.mit.edu/drb/Public/Bersak_CMS_Thesis_FINAL.pdf.
  22. Christina Aushana and Tara Pixley, “Protest Photography Can Be a Powerful Tool For and Against Black Lives Matter,” Nieman Reports, July 13, 2020, https://niemanreports.org/articles/protest-photography-and-black-lives-matter/.
  23. Teju Cole, “When the Camera Was a Weapon of Imperialism. (And When It Still Is.),” The New York Times Magazine, Feb. 6, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/06/magazine/when-the-camera-was-a-weapon-of-imperialism-and-when-it-still-is.html.