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One of the people who has helped to spread The Anonymous Photo Project shared the experience of placing cameras during the extreme sense of threat in a post 9-11 United States:
The crucial discovery I made in this project is not all that surprising, in a way. It was a direct experience of the amount of suspicion and insecurity present in my society and the overwhelming and overarching sense of surveillance I have internalized. It was incredibly difficult to place the packages. Each place I initially thought might be an appropriate place to leave them turned out to be places where I felt I might easily be stopped by authorities or even other citizens on the grounds of leaving a “suspicious package.” Places like post offices, stores, schools, city blocks, all became sites that this project revealed as being places one can no longer act anonymously. Leaving a package, no matter what the intention, has been rendered unacceptable, shady business. It was impossible to shake this feeling–a feeling of somehow breaking a social imperative–despite the fact that the project was an art project. I kept the packages in my car and would sneak them out and place them when a good moment arose. It was always an anxious moment. This project has raised my awareness of the way that, in the USA, we are *always* at a “red” threat level in daily life.
When I first started The Anonymous Photo Project, I did so during a road trip to the US. I had everything prepped – except I neglected to bring the transparent plastic gift bags in which I planned to put the camera, envelope, and instructions. I discovered this in a small coastal town when it was much too late to go back. The best replacement I could find was brown shipping paper. To make the package seem more enticing, I even wrote, “If found, please open” on it in black marker.
I don’t think I could have created a more suspicious looking package, even if I tried. I placed 4 packages before I was able to find some more clear bags. I was extremely nervous when placing these cameras. Maybe because they were the first cameras that I placed, but I’m sure it also had to do with leaving suspicious brown packages in public places in the United States at the height of the fear of terrorist threats. Needless to say, none of these first four packages ever made it back.
After placing dozens of cameras, I am definitely still somewhat nervous at the prospect of being stopped by someone who views my art project as a threat to national security – especially in the United States – but I haven’t been able to express it as eloquently as the above anonymous participant.