“Ground Truth: Corona Landmarks,” in its broadest sense, investigates an individual’s position on earth in the contemporary context of vast networks of information. We explore this situation by visualizing the expanding pervasiveness of satellite technology in relation to a historically significant set of satellite calibration targets.
This system of approximately 256 calibration targets within the Sonoran Desert was created as part of a secret surveillance program in the mid-1960s. The joint CIA/Air Force-classified project known as Corona was a photo-reconnaissance program based on the recovery of physical capsules of ejected film. It produced the world’s first maps of earth from space. The concrete forms we photograph, which are approximately 60 feet in diameter, are spaced a mile apart within a sixteen square-mile grid. They were designed as an array of ground truth markers. We are intrigued by the way that these markers of space have become markers of time, representing a poignant moment in geopolitical and technologic social history.
We privilege the skies in each of our compositions to give visual weight to the density of what is imperceptible miles above us. To further engage this idea, we map the specific satellites present in the sky at each site at the moment of photographing using a satellite tracking application. We enjoy the way that these myriad points and orbital arcs emphasize the ubiquity of this contemporary technology encircling the globe. Our exploration of Corona’s remains thus demarcates a rich anthropologic moment and serves as evidence of the human desire to see from above.
—Julie Anand and Damon Sauer
Julie Anand and Damon Sauer have a website with several resources for those who are interested in learning more about their work. They are working on an interactive map of the sites featured in this photoseries; it shows the orientations of the sites to one another and an overview of the geography they are exploring. Viewers are able to explore the map and click on calibration targets to find either a contemporary image or a historical image. A preview of this map and a process video documenting the creation of the series is available on their website.
If you enjoyed this article, you may like these other features: Horizon, an award-winning photographic collaboration about the nuances of place, and Cinquième Corps, Noémie Goudal’s thought-provoking project on photography, space, and the limits of imagination.