Paul Shambroom

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Shambroom is conducting a long-term investigation of power. This started with series on nuclear weapons, factories and corporate offices. He then focused on homeland security training and preparation. His images are influenced by painting traditions, including Dutch landscape painting.

Meetings Series

These photographs emphasize the theatrical aspects of meetings: There is a “cast”, a “set”, an “audience” (sometimes) and a “program” (the agenda). Seating arrangements, clothing and body language all provide clues to local cultural traits and political dynamics. The subjects play dual roles as private individuals and (sometimes reluctant) public leaders. Power may be relative, but the mayor of a town of 200 has much in common with the President of the United States. We see ourselves reflected (either positively or negatively) in our leaders, exemplifying both the highest ideals and lowest depths of the human spirit. Our reactions to them help define our perceptions of our own place in society, as insiders or outsiders, haves or have-nots

Homeland Security

This work examines issues of fear, safety and liberty in post-9/11 America. From 2003 – 2007 I am photographed facilities, equipment and personnel involved in the massive government and private sector efforts to prepare for and respond to terrorist attacks within the nation’s borders. First responders and law enforcement officers train in large-scale simulated environments such as “Disaster City” in Texas and “Terror Town”, an abandoned mining community in New Mexico purchased with funds from the Department of Homeland Security. Training scenarios, by necessity, involve simulated environments and threats. This blurring of fiction and truth mirrors the difficulty we have discerning between legitimate safety concerns and hyped-up fear.

Treasure: Landscapes of the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve

Shambroom photographs the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) – emphasising the way that this is hidden – as ‘critical assets’ public attention is discouraged although access is not illegal. The Department of Energy agreed to let him photograph from outside the sites without hindrance and allowed me to visit inside one site, but only after lengthy negotiations.

How does one photograph something that can’t be seen? My approach was to work from a distance to incorporate the land and water over the storage caverns, and include lots of sky. I took inspiration from 17th century Dutch landscape paintings, whose fluffy clouds and bucolic countryside spoke of that nation’s prosperity. For a while back in the twentieth century the United States enjoyed similar prosperity, with a seemingly limitless supply of petroleum to power industry and automobiles. The oil supply was truly “out of sight, out of mind”.

Today it is very much on our minds. The hundreds of millions of barrels of oil beneath these idyllic landscapes offer a very thin veneer of protection to our economy and way of life. By government estimates, the Strategic Petroleum Reserve could replace foreign oil imports for 59 days. Then the tap would be empty.

Lost

“Lost” is a series of photographs derived from missing pet posters placed by owners in public places. These images have been degraded by environmental factors or printer malfunctions, resulting in serendipitous and unexpected color and texture. The additional partial loss (of the image) mirrors the ambiguous loss of a beloved family pet. The incorporation of short selections of text from the posters introduces unintentional humor and beauty in the form of found poetry. The words and images combine to transcend the particular family dramas represented in each image, and address more universal themes of loss and uncertainty.