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“I saw myself as a sort of virtual explorer, exploring these new vast virtual landscapes.”
Jon Rafman, Author, in New York Times Magazine
The Google Street View project is a massive undertaking to photograph highways and roadsides across the globe. Pairing the images with routes on Google’s digital maps, Street View allows anyone to take a global photo-tour from the comfort of their homes. The photographs are gathered by roving car-mounted cameras, gathering photographs indiscriminately from an increasing number of locations. The automated, impersonal method of gathering images piqued the curiosity of artist Jon Rafman. What would he find in these images if he challenged himself to take a closer look?
That question catalyzed the creation of 9-Eyes, a project that reflects on digitization and automation. Rafman began re-photographing details he found in the labyrinth of Google Street View images, and sharing them via Tumblr. He seeks out the odd details before Google removes or blurs the details—men in garish masks standing at the side of a highway, a tiger walking across a shopping mall parking lot. The collection reframes Street View imagery in a human light, reminding us of the reality that Google is virtualizing for all of us. Named for the nine cameras Google used for Street View in its earliest stages, Rafman’s piece is a simple but moving meditation on digital culture.