Shadows of the State: a photobook about numbers stations

RAF Akrotiri, Cyprus (Source: Lewis Bush)

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, James Jordan, who shares a link to this article in Wired magazine:

IF YOU TUNED into just the right shortwave radio frequency in the 1970s, you might hear a creepy computerized voice reading out a string of numbers. It was the Cold War, and the coded messages were rumored to be secret intelligence broadcasts from “number stations” located around the globe.

Photographer Lewis Bush is obsessed with these stations to “an almost irrational degree” and hunts them down in Shadows of the State, featuring 30 composite satellite images of alleged number stations from Germany to Australia. The series took two years and endless research. “It’s a difficult project to quantify in terms of man hours wasted on it,” he says.[…]

When Bush finds what he believes to be a station, he takes up to 50 close-up screen grabs and stitches them together in Photoshop to create one high-resolution image. He also listens to frequencies where broadcasts supposedly still happen on radio listening software, taking screen shots of the software’s spectrograms, graphics depicting the sound spectrum.

The final images try to visualize something largely intangible. No government has ever confirmed the existence of numbers stations, and Bush himself isn’t completely certain of their locations. No one can be sure what these scratchy codes really are. And that’s precisely what makes them so intriguing.

Shadows of the State will be published by Brave Books in December 2017. Bush is also raising funds on Kickstarterfor an interactive companion website.

Read the full article at Wired.

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4 thoughts on “Shadows of the State: a photobook about numbers stations

  1. Mario

    Ah, numbers stations, remember them from early days of SW listening, broadcasting in different languages and conjuring up in an SWL’s mind thoughts of international spies, intrigue,cloak and dagger doings and mystery messages. Who was that person at the microphone, where were they transmitting from, what was their message and what was their life like when they left the transmitting facility? Trench coats and hidden daggers for evil doings or were they just minor functionaries performing the routine 9 to 5 grind? Even though you had no idea of what the message conveyed, it was and still is part of the awe-inspiring mystique of shortwave radio.

    To those numbers broadcasters, wherever and whoever your are, thanks for keeping shortwave interesting.

    And thanks for the post James and Thomas.

  2. Paul

    I would really like to purchase this book. I copied some of these numbers stations back in the 60s and 70s when I was in the AF Security Service. Please let us know when you hear that it is released for sale.


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