Trevor Paglen Takes Aerial Photos of U.S. Spy Headquarters, Submits Them to Public Domain

New York-based artist and geography PhD Trevor Paglen has provided the world with the first new images of U.S. spy headquarters in the 21st-century. Published yesterday, on the new digital magazine The Intercept (part of the Pierre Omidyar and Glenn Greenwald initiative First Look Media), Paglen’s images were taken at night by helicopter and are now part of the public domain.The photographs, produced in partnership with Creative Time Reports, are stunning and dramatic views of the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) in Chantilly, Virginia, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) in Springfield, Virginia, and the National Security Agency (NSA) in Fort Meade, Maryland. Apparently, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) denied Paglen’s requests to take aerial shots of its headquarters in Langley, Virginia.

“Since June 2013, article after article about the NSA has been illustrated with a single image supplied by the agency, a photograph of its Fort Meade headquarters that appears to date from the 1970s,” Paglen wrote on the Intercept. “My intention is to expand the visual vocabulary we use to “see” the U.S. intelligence community. Although the organizing logic of our nation’s surveillance apparatus is invisibility and secrecy, its operations occupy the physical world.”

The high resolution images are accompanied by a lengthy explanation written by the artist detailing the inspiration for the project, his intentions for placing them in the public domain, and  a short video about the process of bringing it all to fruition.

The images are all available for download through links on the Intercept, Creative Time Reports, Flickr, and Wikimedia Commons.


— Alanna Martinez (@lanna_martinez)

(From Top: NSA, NGA, NRO, all photos courtesy Trevor Paglen)