This little postlet on a tumblr that hails from Minnesota—
—made me stop and go: A-ha! We all do this now, don’t we?
When I was looking for a new apartment a year and a half ago, there were a couple of days where I spent more time in Google Street View than in, uh, the real street. When I was scouting hotels in Paris last spring, I’d position my little yellow avatar at the front door of, say, the Hotel la Demeure and then take a test stroll. Did the Paris that stretched out there seem fun—or foreboding?
And of course it goes beyond Street View. We’re all satellite analysts now; looking for an apartment, I quickly learned the overhead signature of my favorite kind of street. It’s a certain width, with a certain density of dark-green tree splotches
and a certain number of missile silos.
But this is all very pedestratian; very practical. You can also think about Google Street View as a new kind of street photography. Jon Rafman scouts Street View for compelling images—and, wow, he finds them. He writes:
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.
Do check out his images if you haven’t seen them already; they’re really stunning. And equally stunning, for me, is the image of Rafman at a computer, clicking through Google Street View—scouting, searching—a step at a time.