Aaron Schies

The Covert series is a commentary of the way images are made for consumption. It is derived from improvised camera setups and spontaneous actions, such as placing a digital point and shoot on a shelf in a sporting goods store, or mounting my camera on a tripod two stories above me tethered to a wifi shutter release.

While photographing locations designed with the consumer in mind, I placed myself in these pictures as a gesture of defiance, visiting each location with an infiltrative approach. There were many instances where I had to frame each image as fast as possible, avoiding security guards, store employees, or customers, in fear of being misinterpreted as a trespasser or a pervert. Despite working in situations where I could be caught, the criteria for these images was to still have crisp focus, balanced composition, and enough lighting to allow as many details to be seen, then quickly leaving the area.

My personal experience as a retail salesman in one of the busiest shopping malls in New Jersey allowed me to gain insight about the unwritten laws of etiquette in public environments. Consumerist culture has been inundated with access to smartphone cameras, therefore everyone considers themselves as photographers. During one outing when I was taking pictures at a different mall, I overheard a few employees working in a Sprint mobile kiosk nervously questioning what I was doing. I could make out a few sentences –– “Why does he have a camera?! Why is he taking photos with a tripod?” –– ironically, from the store that sold smartphones with the highest end cameras on the market.