The pictures on Dronestagram aren't pretty. They are mundane — mostly dirt and abandoned buildings — but these are the places where hundreds of people are being killed, mostly unnoticed, by unmanned aerial vehicles. Launched yesterday, Dronestagram is the work of James Bridle, an artist and writer from the U.K., whose work hopes to bring attention to the invisible drone war in the Middle East.
"The Dronestagram project is another way to make these things more visible and immediate," Bridle told me. "We don't see them, or where they work, and it makes it easier to ignore — it's why I'm choosing to do this within networks like Instagram and Tumblr, which are more integrated into people's daily lives."
The U.S. has launched 333 drone strikes in Afghanistan alone this year, the highest ever, in an invisible war that by international standards is (for the most part) legal. But hearing about 333 strikes in places you've never heard of, thousands of miles away, is not the same as seeing where it actually happened.
Using public records from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism about strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia (the only places where information is readily available), he confirms the location of the strike, and then searches the area using Google Maps Satellite view. Some of these places are far off the grid, but Bridle tries to locate the general location as best he can. Consulting several other sources, he snaps a picture where the strike hit and uploads them to Instagram with a brief description, often including a death toll.
"There is a certain trend within technology to make things invisible and seamless," he told me. "And drones seem to express that very well — they are an extraordinarily complex technology but completely invisible to us." With Dronestagram, the strikes are visible — but even Instagram's filters can't disguise barren land and deserted towns. These photos are dead.