The Infrared Line: Examining Boston's Militarized Protest Response

Photos and Text by David Degner

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Photos and Text by David Degner

These photos were taken during the recent Black Lives Matter protests in Boston with a camera modified to detect infrared light. My use of this technique serves two purposes:

First, it highlights the presence of military apparatus in a civilian environment.  Infrared film was originally pioneered to identify enemy positions in wartime (while vegetation appears pink, camouflage does not).  In response, modern military paint and uniforms mimic vegetation in its spectral signature in order to elude infrared detection in the jungle.  My technique of using infrared in an American downtown—where vegetation is scant--serves to again detect the military’s presence, marking it as foreign.  

Second, the unnatural pink tone and ambiguous gazes of the police and service members that I capture destabilize their presence, challenging viewers on both sides of a hardening cultural divide to see these people from a perspective different than they otherwise would.

This work is clearly reminiscent of Richard Mosse’s “Infra” series, which uses infrared imagery to exoticize and bring attention to the DRC’s civil war.  In training the infrared camera on familiar subjects against a familiar backdrop, my approach exoticizes our own society to re-examine the security forces that we see every day.

My interest in this subject stems from a decade of reporting in the Middle East and North Africa, where I repeatedly documented the use of security forces against civilian protest.

See all images from this series on the Getty Images website.