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The Nine Eyes of Google Street View

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Jon Rafman, a Montreal artist, has created a series called "The Nine Eyes of Google Street View."

The project, in his words:

"Initially, I was attracted to the noisy amateur aesthetic of the raw images. Street Views evoked an urgency I felt was present in earlier street photography. With its supposedly neutral gaze, the Street View photography had a spontaneous quality unspoiled by the sensitivities or agendas of a human photographer. It was tempting to see the images as a neutral and privileged representation of reality—as though the Street Views, wrenched from any social context other than geospatial contiguity, were able to perform true docu-photography, capturing fragments of reality stripped of all cultural intentions.

"This infinitely rich mine of material afforded my practice the extraordinary opportunity to explore, interpret, and curate a new world in a new way."

For example, Rafman "...can seek out postcard-perfect shots that capture what Cartier-Bresson titled “the decisive moment,” as if I were a photojournalist responding instantaneously to an emerging event."

"At other times," Rafman explains, "I have been mesmerized by the sense of nostalgia, yearning, and loss in these images—qualities that evoke old family snapshots."

"I can also choose to be a landscape photographer and meditate on the multitude of visual possibilities."

In closing, Rafman notes:

"The collections of Street Views both celebrate and critique the current world. To deny Google’s power over framing our perceptions would be delusional, but the curator, in seeking out frames within these frames, reminds us of our humanity. The artist/curator, in reasserting the significance of the human gaze within Street View, recognizes the pain and disempowerment in being declared insignificant. The artist/curator challenges Google’s imperial claims and questions the company’s right to be the only one framing our cognitions and perceptions."

To see (and read) the rest of the art Jon Rafman has extracted from/created with Google Street View, click HERE.
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