The series Monitoring Eye simulates the presence of a CCTV camera in an urban environment. The photographs are part of a more extensive exhibition in which I have examined urban Western culture and built environments. The exhibition, called ‘Enter Helsinki´, premiered at the Finnish Museum of Photography in 2012.
I choose a stage suitable for my purposes in a public area. I place a camera on a stand by a public route and position myself further away with a remote trigger. I also have two or three flashes in different positions around the area. The subjects enter a lit stage unknowingly and usually only notice the camera when the flash goes off. I am not trying to disguise what I am doing. The majority of people do not react to being photographed in any way. They continue on their journey and maintain their anonymity.
I sort through hundreds of pictures to pick out individuals and scenes that appeal to me visually. The combination of the form of expression and chance continuously surprise me despite the mechanical premise.
In addition to my pictures acting as contemporary witnesses of our time, I also want to call people´s attention to how electronic eyes are constantly watching us in public places. CCTV cameras are designed to enforce public order, and the images captured by them can be presented as evidence in disputes. We accept CCTV cameras in the name of safety and security, because safety and security are concepts that arouse positive associations in our minds. However, we could be unwittingly setting up surveillance machinery worthy of Orwell´s and Huxley´s dystopias. It is not always a given that the eye watching us is neutral.
Hans von Schantz