CCTV Church

Kieran Cook

CCTV Church is a project I have started during lockdown out of frustration. Not being able to leave the house, meant I was limited to my childhood home in Essex. Which, does not offer much in the way of subject matter to photograph. Although, documenting my physical experiences during lockdown could be rewarding, I knew that it was not the type of project I would like to pursue. It was then where I have decided to document the world of others. 

Insecam, is a website that connects to live feeds of open CCTV Cameras. It allows users to access thousands of cameras across the globe, with dozens of cameras being added and removed day to day. I have originally discovered Insecam, while I was working on a project surrounding the topic of modern day surveillance issues. With the idea of a website allowing anyone anywhere to monitor footages globally, intrigued me as much as it caused me  discomfort.  

After stumbling upon the website again and browsing it for hours, I was drawn to how strangely beautiful some of the views were. Inspired by Jacqui Kenny, an agoraphobic photographer who uses Google Earth to create images without leaving her home. I have decided to upload the screenshots I have taken on the website on Instagram to archive my findings.  

Disregarding the subject matter, aesthetically I was fixed on finding views that would suit my  personal photography style. By doing this, it has taught me a lot about what I find visually appealing. The restrictive nature of the cameras– with most of them being fixated, has forced me to work outside of my comfort zone. Making techniques, such as cropping extremely important in terms of creating interesting compositions. This has helped me a lot in my ‘real world’ photography, learning new ways of composing images. Factors such as camera quality were also out of my control. The cameras on Insecam vary in quality from HD to 280P.  Although, this factor originally imposes an issue for creating traditionally ‘good’ images; I have learnt to embrace low quality images as a creative decision, by interpreting low resolution images as a painterly and softer effect. Realizing that I have previously limited myself, by only using HD cameras. 

As much as the aesthetic of each individual image matter, it is important to consider the collection as a whole. This is something I have enforced for the presentation of the project. Also, adopting an unconventional approach and enhancing objectivity, through disclosing minimal information on the locations of the images. 

Working on this project has offered me an escape from my bedroom throughout lockdown. Being able to ‘take’ images in Russia one minute, and Korea the next, all whilst sitting at home in South East England has broadened my horizons. Although, I have presented this project as cold and objective, it has truly helped me in getting through personal struggles in these uncertain times. Enabling me to connect with the world in an unconventional manner, and creating work that reflects on a scale larger than my physical surroundings. 

Though the cold gaze of a CCTV Camera, is the last thing that one would think of when connecting with the world. But, it is the one thing that made me feel at ‘home’ through these times of uncertainty.  

Words: Kieran Cook, Photography, @cctvchurch

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