What does the digital economy look like from the outside? Photographer Brian Smale set out on a three-week odyssey to document the lands that technology forgot. The trip took him from the Columbia River Gorge to Juarez, Mexico in search of hope.
“Microsoft provides tech education to schools in rural communities and their “Airband” technology utilizes unused ‘white spaces’ in TV broadcast signals to bring internet service to homes and small businesses,” explains Brian. “To me, it’s some kind of magic.”
Microsoft launched the Techspark initiative for the underserved places in the world. This shoot took Brian and his assistant, Lucien Knuteson, from eastern Washington, to the birthplaces of the Burrito and Margarita in Juarez, MX, to southern Virginia and back to Cheyenne, WY.
The most striking thing about these locations was their stark emptiness. “Most of these places were very sparsely populated, so it’s not surprising no one had invested in broadband access,” recalls Brian. “But in Juarez, we met the grandson of the inventor of the Burrito in the shop his grandfather owned.”
“We had no required ‘shot list’ and fairly limited time to cover some pretty large areas,” Brian recalls. “We didn’t have the luxury of waiting for the best light or cooperative weather, so we just plowed ahead and shot whatever seemed interesting that crossed our path.”
After years of doing portraiture for this client, the freedom to shoot landscapes made this a dream job. Originally, he planned on using his regular photo gear for the shoot but brought along a drone at the last minute.
“A lot of the places we went were best seen from the air, and in many cases, only accessible by drone,” smiles Brian. “I don’t think I’ll ever do another landscape shoot without one. Besides, drones are really, really fun.”