Boundary Landscapes – Line of Sight

©2012 Phillip D. Nesmith

©2012 Phillip D. Nesmith

Behold what may be my favorite image from the first round of Boundary Landscapes and Surveillance field work.  12×20″ black glass ambrotype view of the international boundary as the sky falls.   This image will be featured prominently at the  2013  James Madison University  (JMU) exhibition of the current boundary/surveillance work entitled Line of Sight: Views from The Age of Surveillance.

I returned to this location several times during the months of June and July.  The image shown in this post is the culmination of hours of observation.  As with most of the plates made during this time, the surveillance that the project is exploring is not evident in the image itself.  300 meters behind the camera position is a Department of Homeland Security surveillance and communications tower, as well as numerous homes.  During my first setup at this location I was intercepted by a vehicle patrol and questioned about what I was up to.  During my conversation with the agents I mentioned I was surprised by the response time and they said I “must have set it off”.  What exactly I had activated I am not sure as I had been to the location before and never triggered any activity other than observation by the remote cameras.  It is known that many of the cameras are often not operational so maybe it is possible the seismic sensor coverage area had been expanded.  From this position five camera towers were visible, each with a published coverage range of up to two miles leading me to wonder what life in the numerous homes in the area would be like with such overt reminders of government observation.

I was drawn to the view because of the visual effect created by the construction method of the boundary barrier along this section of the line.  Erected sometime around 2008/9 from railroad track pulled from unused lines in the immediate vicinity, it presents a transparent appearance which transitions to a solid barrier as the angle of view changes.  What  a powerful experience it is  see this monument of insecurity transition as it dips below the horizon!  Because the foreground is underexposed to produce a better rendering of the early Monsoon clouds the barrier transitions to a solid then disappears into the darkness…beautiful.

Here is a detail of the mountains in Mexico.  As you can see the sky was falling when I made this image.  The black comets are a technical problem that most people working with wet collodion would not like.  I LOVE them!  In my minds eye as I looked out over the landscape they were there, I could not see them but I could feel them.  Once the plate was developed it all came together.  Often things happen when and how they are meant to be, we just have to make ourselves available to the possibilities.

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~ by Phil Nesmith on December 1, 2012.

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