Google: where’s the coffee table book?
You know I don’t like Google Street View but I will say that some of the images Street View is capturing are a new photographic genre. The Google behemoth sends out an army of cars that often look like this:
and every ten to twenty metres, cameras automatically capture whatever moves through their frame. The images are then stitched together to create panoramic views, which hopefully blur people’s faces or car license plates.
Jon Rafman, who is an artist from Montreal, Canada, started collecting Street View images and has published a photographic essay showing the world according to Google and physical spaces that are reminiscent of grainy street shots from the early era of photography. Rafman refers to Google’s unbiased recording and capturing of reality, which I suppose it is because the cameras and cars just cruise around going snap, snap. I like how he describes it:
“Street View collections represent our experience of the modern world, and in particular, the tension they express between our uncaring, indifferent universe and our search for connectedness and significance.”
Frankly, I’ve not thought of Street View in this way before as I’ve been too busy focusing on privacy aspects. But I guess Google is recording our physical world in a way that will be interesting for future historians to explore. Here are some of the photos Rafman has collected but I urge you to read his photographic essay to see how an artist interprets the visual aesthetics of Street View images. Some of the images remind me of lomography and its emphasis on casual, unpredictable, spontaneous shots. I wonder when Google will publish a coffee table book of Street View images – some of them are really quiet haunting and beautiful. Sad that I have to admit this, but admit it I do. Happy face for Google!