BU-200 Hontangas, Castille and Leon, Spain
40 x 64 inches
C-print on Dibond
Jon Rafman's on-going project, The Nine Eyes of Google, employs screen captures of Google Street View, to produce large-scale photographic works. These images vary in form, across every possible photographic style and language. Works can range from gritty urban scenes of hard-boiled American street photography; picture perfect depictions of Cartier-Bresson's decisive moment; photojournalistic documentation of intense public events; family holiday snapshots at the beach; romantic pastoral scenes filled with nostalgia and beauty in the language of the formal landscape; comically unlikely, seemingly staged tableaux reminiscent of Jeff Wall to psychedelic abstraction produced by data compression and camera errors.
The blurring of faces, the unique digital texture, and the warped sense of depth resulting from the panoramic view are all particular to Street View's visual grammar and many features within the captures, such as the visible Google copyright and the directional compass arrows, continually point us to how the images are produced. Although Google's photography is obtained through an automated and programmed camera, the viewer cannot help but interpret the images. This method of photographing, artless and indifferent, does not remove our tendency to see intention and purpose in images. A street view image can give us a sense of what it feels like to have everything recorded, but no particular significance accorded to anything.
Rafman's 2010 web-based film work relates particularly to this series youtheworldandI.com (Private Collection, London) is a narrated film that uses Google Earth and Google Street View to allow the camera to move seamlessly through vast detailed three-dimensional space, while a story is relayed of a lost love who herself refused to be photographed at all. The narrator details his obsession with a found image of her on Street View, and his fruitless search for more.
Works from the series will be presented as a solo exhibition at The Saatchi Gallery, London in July 2012. Further writing by Rafman can be seen here.