On Tuesday the 7th of March 2017, WikiLeaks released “Vault 7”, the largest ever publication of confidential documents on the CIA. The leak comprised of 8,761 documents and files from an isolated, high-security network situated inside the CIA’s Centre for Cyber Intelligence. This extraordinary collection, which amounts to more than several hundred million lines of code, gives its possessor the entire hacking capacity of the CIA. By the end of 2016, the Centre of Cyber Intelligence had over 5000 registered users and had produced more than a thousand hacking systems, “trojans”, viruses, and other “weaponized” malware. But these documents also reveal something else, something perhaps even more interesting than the cyber capabilities of the CIA – they provide a telling insight into the culture among the agency, of the normality and ordinariness of the people that work and operate there. They reveal an almost absurd level of banality, a culture so far flung from our Hollywood influenced; idealized perceptions of what it is to be a “spy”. So much is the case, that at points, in reading through the documents I even began to question their authenticity. My photographs specifically follow a “familiarization” document, that directs covert agents arriving in Frankfurt. I decided to travel to Frankfurt and follow the guidelines, as if I was a covert agent myself. I also took an actor with me. I designed his costume to be inspired by cold war Hollywood imagery, and took the photographs on an old medium format Hasselblad 500cm, to create images that looked like they could be from the past. The concept of exploring a city photographically through a top secret CIA document was an interesting process in itself. Through my photographs, I aim not only to present and play on the banal absurdity that the documents reveal, but also to challenge our conceptions of how such an organization is run, and to question it’s integrity. The project is especially interesting to me, as it has been produced for a module on my MA course – which is focused on documentary photography, however, with this project I have attempted to blur the boundaries between fiction and reality – pushing the genre of documentary photography, the term “conceptual documentary” I think suitably applies. The photographs are presented here with the captions as the text from the “familiarization” CIA document.


Suite à la découverte des 8761 documents hautement confidentiels de la CIA divulgués au public par wikileaks en mars 2017, George Selley est fasciné par la banalité que révèlent ces fichiers sur le fonctionnement, le quotidien et l’univers de « l’espion », parfois absurdement éloignées de nos perceptions fantasmées. En suivant à la lettre les directives d’un document de « familiarisation », il photographie un acteur dans le rôle d’agent secret arrivant à Francfort. La légende sous chacune des photographies provient telle quelle du document filtré au public.

Photographe et cinéaste basé à Londres, George Selley enseigne la photographie au Fine Arts College de Camden, tout en préparant un Master en photojournalisme et photographie documentaire. Son travail photographique et documentaire a été exposé en Italie, à Londres et à Chicago. Il a également été sélectionné pour le Celeste Visible White Photo Prize 2017, l’Art Gemini Prize 2017 et le Felix Schoeller Photo Award international 2017