“Artless and indifferent, without human intention”

Nine Eyes of Google Street View is over ten years old now. For a while, no new photos were being added, but it seems to have picked up again in recent months. Here are a number of old articles about the project, interspersed with some of the newer images.

Nine Eyes of Google Street ViewNet Art Anthology
In 2008, Jon Rafman began to collect screenshots of images from Google Street View. At the time, Street View was a relatively new initiative, an effort to document everything in the world that could be seen from a moving car. A massive, undiscerning machine for image-making whose purpose is to simply capture everything, Street View takes photographs without apparent concern for ethics or aesthetics, from a supposedly neutral point of view.

Towards a postinternet sublime: Jon Rafman’s Street View romanticismRhizome
As postinternet photography, the images in Nine Eyes of Google Street View testify above all to the processes of their own making and dissemination. There is no coherent subject matter unifying the images. Certain themes recur, such as glitches in the stitching system or people giving the finger to the camera, but what organizes the photographs together into one single work is simply that they have been selected from Street View during one of the artist’s marathon surfing sessions. Rafman highlights the digital aspects of his photographs—such as pixelation, watermarks, and the navigational interface which appears in nearly every image—but this never detracts from the sense that the photographs portray something real. Instead, they declare the extent to which offline life is always already structured by the online. This is what leads Geoff Dyer to describe Nine Eyes of Google Street View as giving the impression that not only is Rafman not an “old-school photographer,” but that it almost seems as if he has never even been outdoors, and that “his knowledge of the world derives entirely from representations of it.”

Poaching memories from Google’s wandering eye – The New York Times
At first I saw the camera as totally neutral: It’s just whoever happens to be out gets captured. But the truth is that the neutrality of the camera is actually somewhat . . . there’s hidden ideologies within it. For example, the camera only captures who’s on the street during daylight hours, while most, let’s say, white-collar workers are in their offices somewhere. People like prostitutes, people living on the street, they have much more of a chance to be captured by the camera.

He’s not the only one working in this area of course.

How Google Street View is inspiring new photographyThe Guardian
[Michael Wolf] saw quickly that the indifferent gaze of the Street View camera randomly recorded what he called (in one of the series resulting from this discovery) Unfortunate Events: altercations and accidents, pissings and pukings, fights and fatalities. The Street View cars usually go about their business unnoticed – or at least unheeded – but occasionally people respond to their all-seeing presence by giving them the finger (hence the title of another of Wolf’s series, FY). And so Wolf combed through mile after uneventful mile of boring footage in search of moments that might or might not prove decisive.

So perhaps we can all be armchair photographers now.

Author: Terry Madeley

Works with student data and enjoys reading about art and design, data, education and technology.

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