Bouncing Off Satellites, Falling to Earth
Mishka Henner’s traversals of the contemporary photographic landscape rethink notions of authorship, authenticity and perspective.
UK artist Mishka Henner creates images that reflect the world through the lenses, shutters and photographic devices of satellite imagery, Google Street View and the other automated modes of image-making that have come to define the contemporary condition. Working from his base in Manchester, Henner has pieced together works that span vast geographical, social and informational spaces, and has essentially dismantled and subverted assumptions underpinning traditional documentary photography in the process.
Using widely available tools, databases and software – Google Earth, Google Street View, WikiLeaks, internet message boards and Photoshop among them – with an albeit investigatory eye, the 39-year-old has stitched together monumentally sized images of livestock feedlots and oil fields, making manifest the frightening realities and scale of the beef and oil industries in the United States. He has also used leaked information, metadata and hunches to pinpoint and expose the locations of countless US military outposts.
Other works have taken a more specific aim at the attitudes and discourses relating to documentary photography and notions of truth-telling. His controversial No Man’s Land project, which originally took the form of a print-on-demand book, compiled images of roadside sex workers in rural Italy and Spain as captured by Google Street View, while his 2013 project Less Américains saw him delete swathes of figures and details from Robert Frank’s canonical documentary photobook The Americans. In any case, Henner’s work’s critical endeavour is neither straightforward nor short-sighted. In an age where everything and everyone is beholden to the automated gaze of the camera, Henner is turning the lens back on the... Subscribe to read this article in full
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