"Somehow when no one was looking, we became the most watched country on earth" David Dunnico
Ã¢â‚¬Â¨Ã¢â‚¬Â¨David Dunnico is a documentary photographer from Manchester in the UK. His work often mixes polemics with a sense of the absurd.
We featured Dunnico's black and white photographs documenting the rise of CCTV surveillance in the UK back in 200? He has continued to record this aspect of the surveillance state , a subject that is impossible to discuss without using the language of George Orwell's dystopian novel, 1984. Dunnico's project grew from taking photographs to collecting ephemera about Orwell's last book. His photos were exhibited alongside the Royal Exchange's stage adaptation of the book and his collection was the basis of his exhibition '1984 Looks Like This' held at Salford Museum and Art Gallery in 2012.
Dunnico's collection was noticed by the International Association of Privacy Professionals in the USA, who added his collection of to theirs. Last week part of it was shown in Amsterdam at a conference for the European Privacy Commissioners.
The need to catalogue the collection ready for shipment and reprint the photographs, gave Dunnico the opportunity to re-evaluate the project. He decided to reproduce the images in colour for the first time, and sequence them to be displayed as a series of panoramas. A number of new images that had not been previously shown were also added.
Dunnico explains the rise of this sort of mass surveillance:Ã¢â‚¬Â¨ "Large scale monitoring of the public by networks of Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) cameras has become a part of everyday life in the UK and elsewhere. This has happened with little debate and less understanding. Indeed most of the assumptions people have about it are wrong. And many of the ideas that led to this situation are contradictory".
Britain has more CCTV cameras than any other country. If they stopped crime as we are told they do, it should also be the most law abiding place in the world. They were supposed to make people feel safer, yet at a time when serious crime was falling, people's fear of it was rising. And paradoxically, the presence of CCTV alerts the public to possible danger rather than reassuring them. We are told they are needed to protect us from violent crime, yet most of it is run by retailers to protect their stock from being pilfered, or to keep an eye on the staff. Big Brother isn't watching you with cameras your supermarket is. Surveillance has quickly moved on from cameras to the storing of data from mobile phones.
The photographs in this project capture the organisations that operate CCTV, the companies who sell it and the people who oppose it. They catch the historical moment when technology made it possible for CCTV to spread from the street, out of the shops and into people's homes. The photographs were captioned with GPS coordinates and a time stamp taken from the image's EXIF information in a conceit that mimics the data recorded by CCTV cameras. In Britain, CCTV is intimately linked with the privatisation of public spaces, which are being given over to retail and financial interests, and to be seen in the city for any other reason than to consume, is to be seen as suspicious.
CCTV is the most visually obvious aspect of the 'surveillance state'.
It's very nature makes it interesting to photographers. There is the shared technical basis, but also CCTV became all-pervasive at the same time as we noticed our camera phones meant "we are all photographers now". There is a contradiction at work here. The 'War on Terror' helped create a backdrop of paranoia, where police classified people taking photographs as would-be terrorists and bone fide photojournalists as security threats. At the same time the public were encouraged to see photographers as might-be pedophiles, yet uploaded millions of photos of their kids on social media. They accept being followed by CCTV, which in the main is not done by law enforcement agencies, but object to street photography as violating their privacy.
Dunnico adds: "I visited a photography exhibition, there was a sign on the gallery wall. It said, Photography is strictly forbidden. CCTV in operation. The irony should not be forgotten, so I took a picture."
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