There have been a number of artists who have grabbed and presented compelling images from Google’s Street View, but I really enjoy Jon Rafman’s selection.
Here are a few of my favourites from his Nine Eyes of Google Street View project. Some of the images are funny. Some are disturbing, some are poignant or haunting. They remind me, as I sit at my desk, that all sorts of things are going on in the world at any given moment.
As everyone is by now aware, several years ago, Google started a project called Google Street View, attempting the gargantuan task of photographing every single street in the world as an additional feature to Google Maps. Google sends out fleets of cars, each vehicle armed with a GPS, three laser range scanners and nine cameras on a single pole. Every ten to twenty meters, the nine cameras take a photo of whatever happens to be within their frames. Computer software then links the photos together to create a panoramic image. This allows Google Maps to provide access to 360º horizontal and 290° vertical panoramic views of any street on which the Street View car has cruised.
Google’s mission is “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful;” but Rafman’s fascination is with the Street View camera as a “systematic pursuer of fleeting moments.”
Though their identities are blurred, most people captured in Street Views seem to tolerate or even enjoy being caught on camera. Rafman reckons that it’s quite a recent development for online surveillance to be not mistrusted by people, but almost welcomed as a friendly invasion, a little taste of fame. Street View photography, writes Rafman represents our search as humans for a sense of “connectedness and significance” in an “uncaring, indifferent universe.”
Rafman also was attracted to the immediacy and rawness of the Street View images and how the Google cameras are impersonal and so seem to genuinely deliver fragments of captured reality.
Jon Rafman is an artist who lives and works in Montreal, Canada.
To see more of Rafman’s Street View images, visit http://9-eyes.com/.
To read his essay on his Nine Eyes of Google Street View project, click here.