On his Tumblr 9 Eyes, Canadian artist Jon Rafman catalogs scandalous and scenic moments he finds through Google Street View.

Street View has provided artists with plenty of inspiration for all kinds of projects, such as these surreal landscapes, and these carpets.

Consumer watchdogs, however, argue that it violates people's privacy.

Rafman's work seems to speak to both camps.

The images he finds smartly straddle the issues on privacy and art by compiling images that are both cinematic and intensely personal.

Rafman started surfing Google Street View in 2007, shortly after the program launched.

To wade through the volumes of imagery available, Rafman says he'd get hopped on energy drinks, find the locations of the Street View cars (they indicated the location of the newest imagery), and click through image after image.

The images he captures are sometimes salacious (prostitutes at work on the highway)...

...and occasionally devastating (vandalism and crime).

There's also the surprising beauty of everyday life, like laundry blowing in the breeze.

In an interview with the New York Times, Rafman points out the oddity of sending a robot out in the world to accrue street photography:

"The camera only captures who’s on the street during daylight hours, while most, let’s say, white-collar workers are in their offices somewhere. People like prostitutes, people living on the street, they have much more of a chance to be captured by the camera."

Culling images from the robot's library also means there's a bluntness to the images. The camera can't help, or intervene, when something is going wrong.

The images are all the more personal for it.

The camera also makes occasional errors, creating surreal glitch images in the process.

See more of Rafman's ongoing work on 9 Eyes here.

See his other projects here.

Co.Design

Tumblr Chronicles The Most Private Moments Caught On Google Street View

Jon Rafman’s Tumblr curates beautiful, heart-wrenchingly private scenes caught on camera.

Google Street View is a boon for honing in on precise locations or checking out the home you grew up in. Consumer watchdogs, less keen on its convenience, argue that it violates people's privacy.

Street View has also, somewhat surprisingly, provided artists with plenty of inspiration for all kinds of projects, such as these surreal landscapes, and these carpets. Serendipitously, Canadian artist Jon Rafman’s work on 9 Eyes smartly straddles the issues on privacy and art by compiling images that are both cinematic and intensely personal.

Rafman started surfing Google Street View in 2007, shortly after the program launched. To wade through the volumes of imagery available, Rafman says he'd get hopped on energy drinks, find the locations of the Street View cars (they indicated the location of the newest imagery), and click through image after image. The images he captures are sometimes salacious (prostitutes at work on the highway) and occasionally devastating (vandalism and car wrecks).

But Rafman is also artist enough to ruminate on the process. In an interview with the New York Times, Rafman points out the oddity of sending a robot out in the world to accrue street photography:

At first I saw the camera as totally neutral: It’s just whoever happens to be out gets captured. But the truth is that the neutrality of the camera is actually somewhat...there’s hidden ideologies within it. For example, the camera only captures who’s on the street during daylight hours, while most, let’s say, white-collar workers are in their offices somewhere. People like prostitutes, people living on the street, they have much more of a chance to be captured by the camera.

Still, it's not all bleak. There's some humor to watching life happen through a robot's eyes, such as a runaway baby, crawling alone outside a Gucci store, or the duplicate images of a person that appear when the Street View cars encounter a camera error. Some images, such as architectural wonders, even come off as magisterial. And you quickly discover that laundry hung out to dry can be wildly beautiful too.

See more of Rafman's ongoing work on 9 Eyes here, and his other projects here.

[Images: Courtesy of Jon Rafman]

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3 Comments

  • Interesting, the first picture seems to have been captured in Brazil, because of the language, which looks like Portuguese to me, and the car, which I'm almost sure it's an Opel Kadett with a Chevrolet badge (GM didn't sell the Kadett badged as such elsewhere).

  • Bikes Yo

    Interesting photos. But I'm unsure of what kind of response is encouraged by the shot of the black male holding the white female. Are we supposed to be shocked? scared? Is he kidnapping her? Or are they simply a couple exiting a building and he's playfully tickling her? She still has the cigarette in her hand. If she was in danger she probably would've dropped the cigarette by impulse. The guy loading his trunk could be unrelated to them. He doesn't even seem to be looking at them. Anyone know the story behind it? It would just be a shame if we're supposed to assume that he is harming her because he's black. Would this photo be included in this set of dramatic photos if the male was white?

  • Colton Freshh Leavitt

    Isn't that the beauty of art? Think of it what you will. The fact is that it does make you ask all those questions. And I call it art because it is. There was time spent searching for all of these images. The images were chosen because the artist himself questioned the images. Whether race has anything to do with that photo, doesn't matter. It's the irony that it seems they are in a struggle and a man has his trunk open that triggers the questions, not the race...