For those of you who don’t know – I absolutely LOVE art. So much so that I went to university for a degree in Art History. It does not matter the medium, I can appreciate all styles – paint, installation, animation, sculpture, etc. That being said, I have a special place in my heart for photography. I recently discovered an artist by the name of Jon Rafman and had to share.
Rafman is an artist based in Montreal, Canada. A few years back, he released a project entitled, The Nine Eyes of Google Street View. (The exhibit is still on-going.) It is a collection of images from Google Street View; they are snapshots in time showcasing the boring, exciting, traumatic and mundane aspects of the everyday lives of people and places scattered around the globe. The images range anywhere from the lovely, enlightening, and breathtaking to the generic, bizarre, and disturbing. I like to think of it as a cultural diary of our Earth through images of your world, my world, their world and, for lack of a better word, our world. His project presents a global snapshot of the current time period in relation to society’s mark in the history books. In Rafman’s words,
“My work explores the paradoxes of modernity. In 2008, a year after Google sent out an army of hybrid vehicles bearing nine cameras on a single pole to photograph the world, I began an exploration of this new virtual world, and was fascinated by how powerfully Street View photographs can represent our contemporary experience, the conflict they can express between an indifferent robotic camera and man’s search for connectedness and significance. The photos underscore the tension between an uncaring camera and man’s need to interpret his experience. While celebrating and critiquing modern experience, the technological tools themselves show how they can estrange us from ourselves.” source
I found myself scrolling through the various images creating stories for what I perceived to be happening. Who are these people? What are they doing? What is a baby abandoned without anyone in sight (or at least within view of the camera)? Is the couple kissing simply sharing a brief tender moment or maybe he just proposed or maybe they found out good news? What incident occurred (and why did it happen in the first place) that a man is lying under a white sheet in the middle of the street? Why is that group of men/boys/thugs/gangsters getting arrested? Who are these people? There are endless questions to be asked and, probably, never answered.
It is so easy to get wrapped up in our own daily life and immediate surroundings, but it is nice to have a reminder that there are countless other people, places, things in the world. At this very moment there is someone reading this post but there is also someone who does not have access to Internet. Someone is getting married while another is getting divorced. A baby may be sleeping soundly while across continents someone is performing destructive acts, engaging in war or trying to create an atmosphere of peace. A yogi may be doing a handstand while another yogi is toppling over in crow pose. There are greater things in the world outside our own little bubble and slice of life. Finding Jon Rafman’s exhibit made me remember that while I am sitting at my desk there is someone, somewhere else in the world, who is looking for a chair or a place to sit.
I could probably write an entire book on Rafman and his subjects, but I will spare you the art history jargon and let you spend countless hours transposing yourself into other areas of the world. For further reading about his project, you can read an essay, written by Jon Rafman, here. The article showcases additional images than the ones I have displayed here and gives you a detailed breakdown of how the Google camera works and Rafman’s own perspective.
All images were sourced directly from Jon Rafman’s website, 9-eyes. All written content, unless otherwise stated, is my own opinion.