Computer generated image of figure on hands and knees with a mesh of polygons on the surface of the figure

Zach Blas, SANCTUM (detail), 2018, © Zach Blas, Courtesy of the artist

Mirror with a Memory


How are images being utilized to gather data on our daily activities? Since the late 19th century, photography has been used to surveil and police society. With the development and advancement of artificial intelligence (AI), there has been a radical change in the way surveillance photographs are captured, categorized, and synthesized to gather data on our daily activities. Concerns have arisen about implicit bias, right to privacy, and police monitoring embedded in contemporary corporate, military, and law enforcement applications. Like a mirror with a memory, AI reflects an image of society while perpetuating the biases, flaws, and preconceptions of the people who created it.

Mirror with a Memory is comprised of three programs that offer multiple opportunities for audiences to contemplate art and artists’ roles in examining photography’s function within AI and surveillance. With this Hillman Photography Initiative project, Carnegie Museum of Art will increase awareness of these issues and engage visitors in conversations about how this technology impacts their lives.

Mirror with a Memory is organized by Dan Leers, curator of photography, with Taylor Fisch, curatorial assistant.

A photograph of a wide, cloudy sky, overlaid with thin and barely-there geometric shapes
Trevor Paglen, CLOUD #902 Scale Invariant Feature Transform; Watershed (detail), 2020, wallpaper. © Trevor Paglen. Courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures, New York


Sep 4, 2020–Mar 14, 2021

CMOA presents a three-part exhibition, Trevor Paglen: Opposing Geometries, which includes a newly commissioned, site-specific installation in the museum’s lobby and the museum premiere of new photographs. This exhibition scrutinizes the ways in which machines use artificial intelligence to “see” and the potential issues involved with this vision.

Video still of an empty street from a drivers perspective. Digital maps and texts are overlaid, as if in a video game.
American Artist, still from 2015, 2019

Podcast Series

The Mirror with a Memory podcast spotlights different facets of the conversation around artificial intelligence and photography, from biometrics to racial bias to the environment and international borders. Hosted by renowned artist Martine Syms, the six-episode series features leading artists and thinkers in dialogue alongside archival audio material and insights from the public. This podcast unpacks the ways in which the collision of photography, surveillance, and artificial intelligence impacts everyone.

Listen Now

Book jacket for Mirror with a Memory, features high-contrast three-tone image of figure being viewed from above
Mirror with a Memory; Published by Carnegie Museum of Art, December 2020, 360 pages.


Mirror with a Memory, takes the form of an illustrated reader containing new scholarship, original translations of historical texts, relevant case law, and commissioned artworks. Contributors examine the history and present state of biometric, aerial, and behavioral surveillance and how artists have used their work to expose and disrupt these systems.

Available Now

About the Creative Team

The Hillman Photography Initiative is an interdisciplinary project that reaches beyond the bounds of the artistic world to engage creative innovators in timely conversations about the future of photography. Representing some of the best and brightest in the fields of photography, surveillance, and AI, these individuals worked with museum staff to give shape and voice to Mirror with a Memory.

Learn more about the creative team.

About the Hillman Photography Initiative

The Hillman Photography Initiative connects Carnegie Museum of Art with audiences to exchange new ideas about photography. By collaborating with partners in and beyond the museum, the Initiative is an incubator for new art and ideas rooted in photography and responsive to society at large.

Since its inception in 2013, the Initiative has produced dynamic new artworks, exhibitions, publications, online experiences, and conversations transforming our relationship to the photographic medium.

Learn more about the Hillman Photography Initiative.


Generous support for the Hillman Photography Initiative is provided by the William Talbott Hillman Foundation and the Henry L. Hillman Foundation.

General operating support for Carnegie Museum of Art is provided by The Heinz Endowments and Allegheny Regional Asset District. Carnegie Museum of Art receives state arts funding support through a grant from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, a state agency funded by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Like other museums, Carnegie Museum of Art collects data on its visitors onsite and online. For more information about our practices and how we protect and maintain your privacy, please see our privacy policy.