Margot Kelley (cambridge, ma)

>>>Curator's StatementArtist's StatementImages

curator's statement
Margot Kelley’s project deals with and is inspired by the game of Geocaching. A true product of the current era, this 21 st century treasure hunt began when one man decided to try to test whether the government had indeed lifted their degradation of GPS data by hiding and then posting coordinates of a hidden box to an internet group. A close cousin of its British counterpart, letterboxing, Geocaching (pronounced geo-cashing) as stated on the FAQ of the website “cache in computer terms is information usually stored in memory to make it faster to retrieve, but the term is also used in hiking/camping as a hiding place for concealing and preserving provisions.” Currently, there are close to 150,000 geocaches found in over 200 countries and an estimated million users. Each cache is usually a water-proof plastic box that contains a logbook, some trinkets (you take one and leave one), and sometimes a disposable camera. Interestingly, many caches are hidden in film canisters and a new “webcam cache” has now debuted (there is no, in fact, on the BU campus). After the cache is found, the discoverer is invited to post to the website, and include any comments and pictures.

The series displayed here is from Kelley’s forthcoming book from the Center for American Places and the University of Chicago Press, Local Treasures: Geocaching Across America (Staunton, VA: Center for American Places, October 2005 anticipated publication. Copies can be ordered from As Kelley explains, “Because geocaches are designated by latitude and longitude, hunting for them involves the curious experience of simultaneously knowing exactly where you are going but having no idea where it ‘really’ is or what it will look like until you finally arrive. While that experience was common for explorers in earlier eras, it has become a rarer and rarer experience in our media-saturated world.” When photographing, she underscores this, thus you actually never see any caches in her photographs, but the sentiment, a detail, a moment, that perhaps this person (known only by a username) wanted to share with the world. In her poetic descriptions that accompany each location/photograph, Kelley touches on everything from natural history to philosophy in guiding us visually in how people, seen and unseen, mark the land.

Kelley has a diverse background that includes a Ph.D. in American Literature from Indiana University and a MFA in photography from Massachusetts College of Art. She currently teaches literature at Bentley College. As a part of the Nature & Inquiry artist group related to MassArt’s SIM (Studio for Interrelated Media) program, she collaborated on the award-winning artwork “Invisible Ideas,” a GPS-enabled Artwalk through the Boston Public Gardens and Common for the Copley Society of Art held during the 2003 Boston Cyberarts Festival.

~ Kelley has hidden a geocache in the PRC as well as in or near other Boston Cyberarts venues hosting events or exhibitions dealing with mapping. Visit to learn about how to search for her "cARTographic multi-cache."

- Leslie K. Brown
artist's statement
My work is about the traces we leave in the world. I am especially interested in the ones that speak volumes but are themselves small—the stamps a prisoner affixes to his cell wall, an unnamed person’s picture in an old newspaper, or (as in this project) locales surreptitiously marked so that people can share them. Beginning in 2002, I began photographing places that strangers selected as interesting. The places are all sites where “geocaches” are located. In the new, GPS-enabled game of “geocaching,” pseudonymous players hide and seek toys on public land, sharing the locations by posting the latitude and longitude on the group’s website. In this way, players have the opportunity to hunt for a place—knowing exactly where it is, but often very little else. I am interested in finding out what places people find compelling enough to actively invite others to visit. As more land becomes privately owned, and as cultural forces make wandering in public more fraught, I wanted to know what the places that remained might reveal about how contemporary people (want to) interact with the world around them. By documenting the locales and exploring the ideas they evoke in lyrical stories, I investigate the shifting contours of the contemporary landscape and our access to it. At the same time, by allowing the traces of many players, many places, and many ideas to infuse my images and stories, I hope to create a multi-faceted method for mapping public presence in public spaces.
Click on an image to enlarge.

Captions, left to right:

N 42 ° 21.459 W 71 ° 04.225 , 2002, C-print mounted on aluminum, 16 x 20 inches, Courtesy of the artist

N 42 ° 25.785 W 071 ° 05.008, 2002, C-print mounted on aluminum, 16 x 20 inches, Courtesy of the artist

N 43 ° 34.841 W 073 ° 34.666, 2002, C-print mounted on aluminum, 16 x 20 inches, Courtesy of the artist

N 36 ° 14.381 W 115 ° 18.746, 2002, C-print mounted on aluminum, 16 x 20 inches, Courtesy of the artist

Copyright © 2002, Photographic Resource Center, Inc.