The Anonymous project was an exercise in documentary photography, exploring changing ideas of documentary truth, and pushing the limits of the ubiquitous modern phenomenon – the camera phone.

These protests were photographed from within, gonzo style, using a relatively low resolution camera. A selection of images was made that juxtaposed masked individuals, with various backgrounds. Many of the images are shot from low camera angles, which has the effect of heightening drama, and in some give the impression of hidden camera footage.

To further the theme of these protestors being an online movement, based upon ideas of decentralised leaderless anonymity, the images were then treated to pixelate the people, while leaving the backgrounds relatively untouched.

The only other modifications made are in basic colour balancing, in particular those images where a “No Stopping” sign is visible in the background. Discovering this in some of the shots was one of those wonderful post-shooting discoveries, and it seemed to sit nicely with the idea that these protests happen every month.

I attempted to capture a feeling of what the uneducated public, and I assume the Scientologists, might feel is somewhat sinister and intimidating about this movement. Not that I’m suggesting they are sinister, but more that the act of wearing a mask is in itself inherently frightening to those confronted by it. Tribal masks and facial tattooing give an insight into how deeply ingrained this idea is – it is a fundamental part of our ability to interact socially that we can see and read each other’s faces. One only has to chart the growth of the emoticon in online discourse to realise that the falling away of traditional rhetoric skills has been wholesale replaced by the emoticon, such that I can insult a person with as vile a slander as I can muster, but make it all OK and indeed a sign of familiarity if I add an :) on the end.

If you’ve been to my store, you’d see I have an “Anonymous” t-shirt design, which I started selling back in 2006. That basic logo idea has been adopted by the protestors, and is probably quite strongly associated with them. Then again, it was a fairly obvious design in the first place, so I’d be surprised if I was the first person to come up with it (though I have had it painted on a jacket since about 2001). It’s somewhat interesting to see that an organisation has sprung up which basically mimics some of the stuff that cyberpunk authors have been talking about for a long time. I know the reason I did the shirt was because I was making anonymity collectives a feature of my own comic work, as you can see on the cover of Surfing The Deathline #3, and this poster.

Prints of these images are available on request, and even though the source files are only 3 megapixel (they’ve been kept at their original resolution), they look amazingly nice at A1 (594x841mm).

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