Forbidden Images

Trevor Paglen at Metro Pictures is the Daily Pic by Blake Gopnik

The Daily Pic: The photographer scans the world for what ought not to be seen.

(Courtesy Trevor Paglen and Metro Pictures)

Trevor Paglen is an expert at looking at the overlooked, and this photo, from his current solo show at Metro Pictures in New York, is typical. It reveals the track in the sky of a Russian “Upravlyaemy Sputnik Kontinentalny” surveillance satellite, meant to watch for launching missiles – although it never in fact got to do its watching, because it went wrong and got stranded in a useless orbit. (Look for the faint line of light running from top left to bottom right in the photo).

Paglen has also documented other hidden or forbidden sights: Military drones in civilian landscapes, “secret” (but not quite) surveillance facilities and various unacknowledged satellites. What may be most surprising about these shots is that, for all their emphasis on simply showing hidden things (one of the oldest goals of art) they are also, Paglen insists, about beautiful image-making.

For a full visual survey of past Daily Pics visit