Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Google and Art Photography: 9 Artists You Should Know

Google (usually street view) photography projects have been around for a few years, but I have tended to ignore google-based conceptual projects or dismiss them as gimmicky trends. However, when I made the syllabus for my photo class this semester, I added on a "trends" day devoted to Google (both satellite and street view). Had I paid more attention each time a Google project was mentioned in my various RSS feeds, I would have many more examples, but here are a few from the last few years that are worth a look:

1. "Arecibo" project by David Thomas Smith
 In brief: He uses thousands of Google map images to create visually compelling composites that intertwine with the Arecibo message.
Neolithic Age: 
East Africa - Some of the Earliest Utilisation of Fire.
see the full project on his site.

2. Jon Rafam of
In brief: "9-eyes" is named after the 9-lens Google camera. He finds (or shall I say "curates"?) Google Street View images that often have a surreal or uncanny quality. If you haven't already seen his site, check it out—it's pretty amazing. Here are a few of his finds:

3.  James Dive's "God's eye view"
 In brief: Using composites from Google + a lot of complex image 3D modeling and image manipulation to represent biblical scenes as they would be seen from space.
Parting of the Red Sea (via and article about Dive on the Dailymail)
4. Aaron Hobson's "Street View"
In brief: Hobson finds images that will make you think "No way that comes from Google Street View!" Yes, he does some minor retouching (no more than 5 minutes worth, he says) and the results are amazing. Here are three of many more that you can find on his site:

5. Doug Rickard's A New American Picture.
In brief: Google Street View photos of impoverished Detroit, Oakland, and Memphis.

I remember when Rickard's book made it the best-of 2010 lists from photo-eye, but with a limited edition of only 250 copies, there was no hope of getting my hands on one.

6. Mishka Henner's "No Man's Land" (among other Google-related projects)
In brief: GSV photos of roadside prostitutes in rural Italy (and Spain in part 2).

The project has done very well, but I also have to mention another—"Dutch Landscapes" in which Henna uses Google satellite images that have been censored for security purposes with often colorful and always interesting polygons (as opposed to other countries that have opted for a boring blur to mask locations from prying eyes).

NATO Storage Annex, Coevorden

Noordwijk aan Zee

Those are just two of Henner's many interesting projects you might want to look at.

7. Michael Wolf's "A Series of Unfortunate Events" (and other projects)
In brief: Google Street View images that he has photographed (as opposed to doing screen grabs) and cropped.

No, they are not all as sinister looking as the two above, and there are many more GSV-related projects as well. One of my favorites from a 2009 Paris project looks like something Doisneau might have taken:

8. Jenny Odell's "Satellite Collections" and other projects.
In brief: Odell rips objects from their original Google context and creates collections of everything from nuclear cooling towers to stadiums.

104 Airplanes

97 Nuclear Cooling Towers
 She has other projects you should check out as well. One of my favorites is "Travel by Approximation: A Virtual Road Trip" she took (over the course of two virtual months) by photoshopping herself into GSV images and researching on TripAdvisor, Yelp, Youtube, etc. She has made a Blurb book that looks like a lot of fun, although the $152.00 price tag is a bit high for me.

9. Clement Valla's "Postcards from Google Earth"
In brief: Valla exploits the serendipitous errors produced by computer programs applied to Google Earth photos.

These aren't the only creative minds doing interesting things with Google photos, but it's enough to give you an idea of the variety of Google photography projects out there. At first I thought that this type of work was passing trend, but now I think that it might well be the tip of the iceberg.


Unknown said...

I loved all of these links. Thank you for sharing!!