Far from the usual fare of sepia-washed croissant photos and arty street shots, writer James Bridle is using the photo-sharing social network to highlight US drone strikes in the Middle East.
Drones — unpiloted aircrafts controlled either remotely or on autopilot — are used prolifically in the Middle East by US and UK militaries for low-risk strikes on suspicious targets. As you might imagine, these attacks result in more civilian deaths than either government is willing to acknowledge or publicise, and it has been argued that the program is ineffective and counter-productive.
Nevertheless, the program is still being run, and run hard: so far, this year, the US has made over 330 drone attacks on Afghanistan alone.
From here, it just looks like a bunch of numbers. But James Bridle has managed to pair tools that we usually use to find a good place to get Thai food, photograph it and bring it a bit closer to reality.
Using data from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism's "Covert War on Terror" research, Bridle is finding strike targets on Google Maps and posting them to Instagram as they happen. He has called his project Dronestagram.
Wadi al Abu Jabara. Beit al Ahan. Jaar. Dhamar. Al-Saeed. Tappi. Bulandkhel. Hurmuz. Khaider khel.
These are the names of places. They are towns, villages, junctions and roads. They are the names of places where people live and work, where there are families and schools. They are the names of places in Afghanistan and Yemen, which are linked by one thing: they have each been the location of drone strikes in the past couple of months.
Each snapshot includes information about the site and, if there is any to be found, information on the number of deaths caused by each strike. Each image should be accurate to within a few kilometres, at most; and, although they are geotagged to Bridle's own location due to the fact that Instagram location tagging is automatic, each of the sites, Bridle said on his blog, is absolutely real.