Rafman curates some of the more striking, peculiar, or interesting images collected by Google’s Street View militia. He describes the draw in a 2009 essay. While Google’s photography is automated and passive, the very act of curating them restores humanity to the shots.
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. A critical analysis of Google’s depiction of experience, however, requires a critical look at Google itself.
Although Google’s photography is obtained through an automated and programmed camera, the viewer interprets the images. This method of photographing, artless and indifferent, does not remove our tendency to see intention and purpose in images.
This very way of recording our world, this tension between an automated camera and a human who seeks meaning, reflects our modern experience. As social beings we want to matter and we want to matter to someone, we want to count and be counted, but loneliness and anonymity are more often our plight.
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.
Here are a few little nuggets from around the world; check out Rafman’s site (which, we should note, includes occasional Google-caught nudity) for many, many more.