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Invisible: Covert Operations and Classified Landscapes
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on December 16, 2010
Like Werner Hertzog's Lessons of Darkness, Invisible sets out to push at our understandings of art and political commentary by refusing to fall comfortably into either category. Paglen makes use of telescopic photography to produce images of restricted governmental spaces; that the formalist beauty many of these images contain is irrelevant to the content they reach across space to uncover would seem to be the point. Those looking for hard data and fist-thumping theatrical protest will be disappointed, as will those in search of a traditional exemplar of the photographic aesthetic. But for those interested in suggestive gazes into the shadow government, and the aesthetics of technology pushed to its limits, this is a book well worth exploring and mulling over. The first step into penetrating the covert machinations of power is to learn new ways to see the apparent world around us; Invisible marks a brave step towards this knowing vision.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on March 31, 2011
This book is an artistic documentary of the few fleeting glimpses the shadowy world of military covert "Black Ops" sometimes provides us with. Sparse in text (do not expect deep histories or analytical chapters), the pictures make clear what is visible despite attempts to hide it. In itself, many pictures show little of substance: the content of the pictures is as elusive as the activities they document. Much of their meaning has to be guessed, rather than that it is given. In this, they truely reflect what they document: they show small parts of a bigger picture only, with that bigger, complete picture remaining hidden: small parts of riddles, the meaning unclear apart from that they mean *something* in the bigger context of military Black Operations. But exactly this and their context, the fact that they allow you glimpses into what you are not supposed to see without revealing the full meaning of things, makes them such strong documents.

The book is comprised of several parts. After a philosophical essay on aspects of covert war activities and society by Rebecca Solnit, the work of Paglen is presented in five parts. Part I provides telescopic pictures, taken from extreme distances, of secret military facilities: hangars, aircraft (some used by the CIA in the transport of prisoners to secret prison facilities abroad), proving grounds, office buildings. Part II briefly delves into Black Ops symbology, by means of a select number of uniform patches and challenge coins from covert projects. Part III is a list of Code Names - without any further details on what covert projects they represent. Part IV features images of classified military satellites - spy satellites - over prominent landmarks in the US (combining landmarks of the 19th century frontier with the 20th/21th landmarks of the Space frontier). Part V "on Ghosts" documents the ghost identities created by the CIA as covers for their personell, in the form of fake passports and fake names and signatures associated to the infamous CIA prisoner transports to secret prisons abroad. In a final chapter, Paglen briefly describes the methods and technology he used.

Being active in the world of (photographic) tracking of classified satellites myself, I can appreciate the technical difficulties Paglen had to overcome to shoot many of his pictures: a point which might actually be lost on some parts of his audience.

The book is a good coffee-table book, similar to the typical art book with the work of a certain painter making a good coffee-table book. It is something to leaf through and wonder, not to deeply study. It is not a book suitable (nor intended) for those seeking a deep understanding of the history of covert projects and secret wars.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on March 6, 2013
I am a big fan of Trevor Paglen's past works; "Blank Spots on the Map" is one of my favorite reads in the last several years. But this was pretty disappointing; its just a collection of photos in a hard cover. Its put together really well, no doubt, but some of the nighttime sat photos are impossible to make out.

Like I said, a coffee table book, at best. Felt like it was missing quite a bit.
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on December 22, 2011
A fascinating series of glimpses into what "our government" is doing supposedly to protect us. The frightening realization is that the "them" that these weapons and powers are meant to kill and control may very well be "us."
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on February 1, 2014
I liked the I could tell you.... book which pictured the unit patches so I thought I would give this one a try. Not so good. Grainy pictures, nothing new. Cut a couple of pictures out that I liked and round filed it.
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on July 20, 2014
Nice book; however, most of it seemed to be on area 51. Not much on other locations either in the US or abroad. Night time shots of things flying overhead in space left much to be desired.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on April 9, 2012
A work that summons its power from what isn't seen, from what is implied or vague and from what might be seeing us. Disregard the miserable one star reviewer, why must such people even bother to comment.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on April 7, 2013
Has a ton of interesting information about stuff that your taxes paid for, but you most likely know nothing about..
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9 of 32 people found the following review helpful
on November 26, 2010
Upon removing the shrinkwrap I was immediately disappointed on the contents. I was hoping for a coffee table print book that I could share with my interested equals, but I received an amateur internet produced picture book better classified by a wanna-be scrap book of overrated pictures and internet drawings. Avoid gifting this book without buying for yourself first.
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