Photographer AnnieLaurie Erickson has spent a lot of time lately being watched by law enforcement. In her recent trip this year to Oklahoma, she stood on public property, taking photographs while security guards, local officers, and state police looked on. One might ask, what has she been photographing that requires so much surveillance? The answer is: big data centers throughout the Southern United States, the subject of her smart exhibition Data Shadows at Tulane University’s Carroll Gallery. Erickson’s fourteen photos and one interactive installation explore what happens to the everyday internet data we create.
Only last year, Edward Snowden revealed that the NSA has been monitoring communications including email, videos, photos, voice-over-IP chats (such as Skype), file transfers, and social-networking information. While the Arab Spring exemplified how social media could diffuse power, Snowden demonstrated that collecting huge swaths of data permits the government to monitor—and potentially control—social movements. Erickson’s photographs reveal the sites where that information is stored. Pigment print Google Data Center, Surveillance Cameras, Mayes County, OK (2014) depicts a massive white complex behind a chain-link fence. One lone light shines high above the industrial buildings. Throughout Erickson’s Data Center series, fences interrupt the onlooker’s view, a reminder that the majority of us are outside the periphery of control over our information.