Times Square Ring of Steel #28, 2013. Toner and acrylic on canvas, 24” x 18”
Louis Cameron (‘96)
“Times Square Ring of Steel”
The Gallery at One Grand Army Plaza, Richard Meier ‘On Prospect Park’
1 Grand Army Plaza, Brooklyn, NY 11238
In a series of black and white portraits, “Times Square Ring of Steel,” Cameron’s subject is the suspicious civilian passing through Times Square. The neighborhood is a security hotspot full of bright lights, commerce, and tourism. Ubiquitous cameras hang from lampposts and buildings above the bustle, logging visual records of foot traffic. Pedestrians, unaware that they’re being recorded, stream one after another into overlapping fields of observation. The operators of these cameras are the NYPD, corporate entities, deli owners, The Department of Transportation, the Department of Homeland Security, and others. However, Cameron’s interest seems to lie in images with an authoritarian perspective, situated above and behind the world below them. When he chooses specific photographs from a multitude of webcam recordings, the creative act begins at the moment of selection: a passerby carrying backpack, a woman wearing a hijab, a man in a baseball cap, and so on.
Gleaned from a plethora of photographic opportunities, Cameron’s work is not unlike traditional street reportage by photographers such as Henri Cartier-Bresson. Like Bresson, Cameron chooses an image at the so-called decisive moment. But while Bresson could have changed lenses, or repositioned himself to get the shot, Cameron’s perspective is one he can’t control. The contemporary artist using webcam technology is limited to the viewpoint of a covert stationary machine.
Cameron ushers the transformation of another series of rote surveillance photographs from public records to discreet art objects; he does so by accessing street webcams through websites where such images pour into the public domain. In “Domain Awareness”, a series of colorful Brooklyn landscapes, Cameron has chosen images from the borough’s busiest hubs: the Barclays Center, the corner of Flatbush Avenue and Bergen Street, and other locations. Like the familiar Google street view map system, city surveillance webcams produce online snapshots that capture the movement of traffic in real-time. Notably, for this exhibition, he photographed himself standing at Grand Army Plaza by using his cell phone to access a webcam. This elaborate self-portrait exploits the advanced technology and perspective that our particular historical moment allows. It also points to the vulnerability of any one individual to be easily located among a colossal maze of streets and buildings.
Limited to the webcams he utilizes, the artist engages his audience with questions about surveillance through selection: why does he paint the individuals and places he does? This concern plays into our own feelings of suspicion, and our own vulnerabilities. As viewers we’re left to interpret the content of Cameron’s work, to be complicit in the process of determining their meaning. (via Louis Cameron)