Flags of Convenience is a photo-essay examining 21st-century seafaring practices, and the laws that have allowed corporations to transform our relationship with the sea. Focusing specifically on the modern cruise industry as a symptom of a larger problem, Flags of Convenience combines text, photographs, and found/historical images to comment on the flawed sociopolitical system that exists on ships and hides in the background of the global tourism industry.
Land-stricken and lonely, I began collecting screenshots from security cameras and webcams aimed at the bows of various cruise ships. The work deals with tracking, movement, and communication between a ship at sea and the outside world. The images are often pixelated, distorted, and glitched. Sometimes the cameras are pointed down to the open deck of the bow, which is usually used as a recreational deck for crew members; other times the camera is steadfast in its isolation of the seascape. These cameras broadcast low-resolution still images, usually every few minutes, to the websites of the cruise operators. The camera can go down for weeks or months due to weather, satellite signals, or malfunctioning equipment onboard. The nature of these broadcasts is somewhat mysterious, but it seems to be for the enjoyment of the families of the passengers and crew of a ship. It could also be useful as a form of insurance, to show that the ship was in a certain place at a certain time (they are often timestamped). I watch these cameras because the ships are like family to me, and I like to check in on them.
Playing with a sort of international shipping news, I started tracking the routes of various ships, and made records of where they deviated from their scheduled paths. I recorded the AIS data from information available online, and then mapped it on a black background without any locational context.
The maps differ in scale and situation; some record the movement of the ship in the event of a man-overboard emergency, while others result from fires, rescue missions, and medivac incidents. By obscuring the details of the recording, I hope to reveal the movement of panic. Six thousand people moving together, erradically and without a set course, on the open ocean.