Group show

Blue Sky Days at the Berlin Museum for Photography

Blue Sky Days will be on display at Berlin’s Museum for Photography with twelve gelatin-silver prints as part of the Watching You, Watching Me group exhibition from Feb. 17 to July 2, 2017.

Museum für Fotografie
Jebensstraße 2
10623 Berlin

About Blue Sky Days:

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 grey skies. The drones do not fly when the skies are grey.”

With my camera attached to a small drone, I traveled across America to photograph the very sorts of gatherings that have become habitual targets for foreign air strikes—weddings, funerals and groups of people praying or exercising. I also flew my camera over settings in which drones are used to less lethal effect, such as prisons, oil fields, and the US-Mexico border. The images captured from the drone’s perspective engage with the changing nature of surveillance, personal privacy and war.


About Watching You, Watching Me:

What right do governments, corporations, and individuals have to collect and retain information on your daily communications? What tools – both today and in the past – have been used to monitor your activities? What are the immediate and far-reaching effects? As governments and corporations around the world expand their efforts to track the communications and activities of millions of people, this not only threatens our right to privacy, but also opens the door for information to be collected and used in ways that are repressive, discriminatory, and chill freedom of speech and expression.

It is in this context of massive information gathering that Watching You, Watching Me – the 22nd installment of the Open Society Foundations’ Moving Walls exhibition – explores how photography can be both an instrument of surveillance and a tool to expose and challenge its negative impact. In tackling the inherent difficulty of visualizing something that is meant to be both omnipresent and covert – seemingly everywhere and nowhere at the same time – the artists in this exhibition employ a dynamic range of approaches. Together, these 10 artists provide a satellite-to-street view of the ways in which surveillance culture blurs the boundaries between the private and public realm. These projects raise important and provocative questions about the role of privacy in preserving our basic freedoms and rights.

Watching You, Watching Me: A Photographic Response to Surveillance curated by Stuart Alexander, Susan Meiselas, and Yukiko Yamagata. Organized by the OSF – New York in cooperation with the Kunstbibliothek – Staatliche Museen zu Berlin.

Publication: Traces of Exile in The New Yorker

  The New Yorker  featured Traces of Exile on Jan. 27, 2017. The publication includes six segments from my project which overlays enhanced video landscapes along the migrant trail in Europe with Instagram images that refugees posted to the same place. The text for the feature was written by Nicolas Niarchos and is copied below:   “Before the summer of 2015, the island of Lesvos was…  read more.

Group show

Traces of Exile at the ICP Museum

Video installation of Traces of Exile on show at the International Center of Photography Museum from Jan. 27 to May 7, 2017, part of the group exhibition Perpetual Revolution: The Image and Social Change.

ICP Museum
250 Bowery
New York, NY 10012

About Traces of Exile:

The ongoing crises in the Middle East have uprooted millions of people, yet new technology allows them to keep connected to their home communities and loved ones in unprecedented ways. The smartphone has become the essential travel companion of the 21st century refugee. Apps help migrants navigate through unfamiliar lands, stay in touch with their family and friends, contact smugglers, and even document their daily lives with selfies and posts to Instagram.

How does a refugee’s life in exile differ from his or her presence online? How does their portrayal of themselves differ from how they are depicted in the Western media?

Inspired by an Augmented Reality app that layers the smartphone camera view with nearby social media posts, this project reveals the digital traces of refugees that have been geo-tagged to a specific place, capturing the intersection of their online identities and places of exile.



About Perpetual Revolution: The Image and Social Change:

Organized by ICP Curators Carol Squiers and Cynthia Young, Assistant Curators Susan Carlson and Claartje van Dijk, along with adjunct curators Joanna Lehan and Kalia Brooks with assistance from Akshay Bhoan and Quito Ziegler, Perpetual Revolution: The Image and Social Change continues ICP’s long-standing tradition of exploring the social and historic impact of visual culture.

Today, viewers are barraged by seemingly endless streams of new kinds of media images on an unprecedented scale. Perpetual Revolution explores the relation between the overwhelming image world that confronts us, and the volatile, provocative, and often-violent social world it mirrors.

This exhibition proposes that an ongoing revolution is taking place politically, socially, and technologically, and that new digital methods of image production, display, and distribution are simultaneously both reporting and producing social change. The epic social and political transformations of the last few years would not have happened with the speed and in such depth if it weren’t for the ever-expanding possibilities offered by this revolution.

Perpetual Revolution: The Image and Social Change presents six of these critical issues transformed by visual culture: #BlackLivesMatter, gender fluidity, climate change, terrorist propaganda, the right-wing fringe and the 2016 election, and the refugee crisis.

Traces of Exile is supported by the Pulitzer Center. It premiered in November 2016 at the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art (SECCA).

Publication: Packing Heat in Le Monde

France’s Le Monde newspaper featured my Packing Heat project in an eight-page supplement titled, “La Guerre Sans Fin des Etats-Unis.” For three weeks, I traveled around the United States with Rémy Ourdan, Le Monde’s war correspondent, to see how American society had changed in the fifteen years since the 9/11 attacks. The feature is also available (in French) to subscribers as a…  read more.

Why I’m boycotting Facebook until they clean up their act

Why I’m boycotting Facebook until they clean up their act Earlier this year, Facebook’s worldwide user base crested 1.7 billion people. That is equivalent to over 1 in 5 people on the planet. To put that in perspective, there are now more Facebook users than motor vehicles in use on Earth. If Facebook were a religion, it would have already…  read more.

Radio interview: Blue Sky Days and Traces of Exile on WFDD NPR affiliate

  In a 40 minute interview with North Carolina NPR affiliate WFDD, I spoke about my two projects currently on show at the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Arts (SECCA), Blue Sky Days and Traces of Exile.

Group show

Dispatches at the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art (SECCA)

Dispatches group exhibition featuring Traces of Exile and Blue Sky Days, November 1, 2016 to February 19, 2017

Artist talk with Tomas van Houtryve November 17, at 6:00 pm

Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art (SECCA)
750 Marguerite Dr.
Winston-Salem, NC 27106

Dispatches gathers and generates artistic responses to the news by 34 contemporary artists and photojournalists. The exhibition includes a survey of works from 2010 to present and launches a series of commissions, or “dispatches” on current events and the critical issues of our time.

The art works emerge from within and in defiance of today’s media landscape, ranging from real-time coverage to deliberately slow and analog forms. They enlarge our collective capacity to sensitively receive stories delivered in today’s unevenly regulated and fast flow of news. They decelerate the speed of information. Or, they organize collective efforts toward a more humanizing interaction.

Dispatches is divided into five thematic zones: Post-9-11 Realities; Borders and Migrations; Ecological Justice; New Forms of Social Action; and the 2016 US Presidential Election.

Featured independent artists include Doug Ashford, Rossella Biscotti, Hasan Elahi, LaToya Ruby Frazier, Sheryl Oring, Trevor Paglen, and Larry C. Price. Featured photographers from the VII Photo collective include Ashley Gilbertson, Ron Haviv, Ed Kashi, Sarker Protick, Maciek Nabrdalik, Sim Chi Yin, and Danny Wilcox Frazier.

Tomas van Houtryve is the only artist with two bodies of work in the show: Traces of Exile in the Borders and Migrations section and Blue Sky Days in the Post-9-11 Realities section. Both projects were supported with grants from the Pulitzer Center.



Last Whispers by Lena Herzog at the British Museum (art collaboration)

Last Whispers immersive installation by Lena Herzog, 21 to 23 October, 2016

Featuring original drone videography by Tomas van Houtryve

The British Museum
The Living and Dying Gallery (room 24)
United Kingdom


Last Whispers is a project about a mass extinction.

Every two weeks, the world loses a language. At an unprecedented speed, faster than the extinction of some species, our linguistic diversity—the very means by which we know ourselves—is eroding. Today, more than half of the world population speaks only 30 of the 7,000 languages remaining on earth. It is estimated that at least half of the currently spoken languages will have died by the end of this century. Some estimates project a much greater speed of this disappearance.

By definition, it occurs in silence, since silence is the very form of this extinction.

Every community that loses its language feels as if it is happening to it alone. In fact, it is happening to the majority of world’s languages. Most of us, in the Western world barely hear an echo of this vanishing chorus. We want the world to hear it and feel its loss.

Last Whispers was conceptualized, directed, and produced by Lena Herzog with sound design and compositions by Marco Capalbo and Mark Mangini. Tomas van Houtryve contributed original drone videography.

Solo show

Blue Sky Days in New York City

Blue Sky Days solo exhibition Oct. 4 to Nov. 23 prolonged to Dec. 31, 2016

Artist reception Thursday, Oct. 13 from 6:30 to 8:30pm

Anastasia Photo gallery
143 Ludlow Street,
New York City, NY 10002

Starting in 2013, I traveled across America to aerially photograph the kind of gatherings that have become habitual targets for drone strikes abroad — including weddings, funerals, and groups of people praying or exercising. I also flew my camera over settings where government surveillance drones have been used domestically.

In October 2012, a drone strike in northeast Pakistan killed a 67-year-old woman picking okra outside her home. At a U.S. Congressional hearing held in Washington in October 2013, the woman’s 13-year-old grandson, Zubair Rehman, spoke to a group of 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.”

The images captured from the drone’s perspective engage with the changing nature of surveillance, personal privacy, and war.

The production of Blue Sky Days was supported with grants from the Pulitzer Center, and was first published by Harper’s magazine as a 16-page spread, the largest photo essay in the magazine’s 166-year history.


Praise for Blue Sky Days


Blue Sky Days is one of the most important photo essays done in the last few years. It tackles issues that are very difficult to photograph but central to modern existence — privacy, government intrusion and modern antiseptic warfare.


- James Estrin, Editor of the The New York Times LENS blog

With simple, vivid means, Houtryve brings the war home.”

– Teju Cole, Photography critic for The New York Times Magazine

Conceptual in nature, grounded in metaphor, and presented in gorgeous black and white, his series Blue Sky Days sure looks like art.

–  Jordan G. Teicher, critic for Photograph Magazine

Honors for Blue Sky Days

•  ICP Infinity Award
•  World Press Photo, Second Prize
•  Photographic Museum of Humanity, First Prize
•  White House News Photographers Association, First Prize
•  POYi Award of Excellence
•  TIME’s Top 10 Photos of 2014
•  Aaron Siskind Fellowship Grant
•  Pulitzer Center Grant
•  Getty Grant