Jason Oddy

Launched in response to the attacks of September the 11th, America's so-called War on Terror was the defining geo-political venture of the first few years of the 21st century. Having already been to the Pentagon and Guantanamo Bay, Oddy, in his quest to find out what really lay behind this hyper-nationalist act of retribution, next made a series of visits to Playas a onetime mining town in New Mexico's high desert. When he first went in 2004 the US Department of Homeland Security had just turned the place into a 'real-life' anti-terrorist training centre. Streets and houses that had once been the backdrop of everyday lives were now being used as stage-sets for hostage takings and suicide bombings. While the few remaining residents had been given new part-time jobs as role-playing victims or terrorists.

To capture this shift, Oddy returned repeatedly to the town. His photographs show what can happen to a place when it is used to rehearse apocalyptic scenarios on a daily basis. A hollowing out? A sense that reality has been inverted? Or perhaps even that it might itself have been taken hostage by the dramatic stories then convulsing America? Struck by the fact that like the town that was their home Playas's residents also bore the marks of being caught in this uncertain turn of history, Oddy for the first time began taking portraits.

During the course of his trips he proceeded to explore the wider contexts of New Mexico, delving in particular into the state's military past. The first atom bomb test. Pioneering rocket science. Even the Roswell UFO landings. This extensive body of work broadened the scope of the Playas series before culminating in Notes du d├ęsert, a book-length novelistic essay published in 2017 by Grasset, Paris.