Blue Sky Days

Tomas van Houtryve

2013 - 2015

In October 2012, a drone strike in northeast Pakistan killed a 67-year-old woman picking okra outside her house. At a briefing held in 2013 in Washington, DC, the woman’s 13-year-old grandson, Zubair Rehman, spoke to a group of five lawmakers. “I no longer love blue skies,” said Rehman, who was injured by shrapnel in the attack. “In fact, I now prefer gray skies. The drones do not fly when the skies are gray.” Zubair Rehman’s grandmother is one of several thousand people killed by covert U.S. drone strikes since 2004. In response, the photographer attached his camera to a small drone and traveled across America to photograph the very sorts of gatherings mentioned in strike reports from Pakistan and Yemen, including weddings, funerals, groups of people praying or exercising. He also flew his camera over settings in which drones are used to less lethal effect, such as prisons, feed lots, and the U.S.-Mexico border. The images captured from the drone’s perspective engage with the changing nature of surveillance, personal privacy, and war.

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