Tag Archives: Raw File

Street View and Beyond: Google’s Influence on Photography

When Google Street View started as an experiment in 2007, the company sent SUVs equipped with cameras, GPS and lasers to collect its first pictures. The idea of capturing images of the entire world from the perspective of the street was revolutionary, if not a little insane. Now, five years later, Google has recorded 360-degree photographs of streets in more than 3,000 cities in 43 countries around the world. Google Street View cars—along with snowmobiles, giant tricycles and Trekkers–have covered more than five million unique miles of road since the project began, making tens of millions of still images in even the most far off places on the map, such as Antarctica.

The massive and growing archive has spawned a virtual world of images like we’ve never seen before in the history of photography—and its accessibility has inspired a new generation of photographers who are using the tool to document the world while simultaneously redefining the boundaries, quite literally, of contemporary art photography.

While critics bemoan the trend of artists using Google imagery in their works, the artistic appropriation of photos is as old as photography itself, employed by everyone from the Surrealists to the post-modern Pictures Generation of the late 1970s.  Google’s Street View images aren’t a commentary on the world, but are surveillance photos taken for the practical purposes of just showing us places we may not be able to visit. The machines and cameras used to collect them have no discretion, much less artistic influence. Through meticulous research, framing, grabbing and reformatting, photographers themselves are assigning photos artistic value, in much the same way they do when  shooting, toning or retouching a raw file or an analogue negative. “In its raw form, satellite imagery can be quite dull,” says Mishka Henner, an artist who often works with Google’s images. “Cropping, adjusting, and forming a body of work out of them completely transforms these images into something that can be beautiful, terrifying and also insightful. If the internet remains free and open, I’m confident that in ten years photographic work like this will be as prevalent as imagery produced by hand-held cameras.”

Paul J. Richards—AFP/Getty Images

The Google street view mapping and camera car is seen as it charts the streets of Washington, DC, on June 7, 2011.

At this point, all the Street View images are created by a human-operated Google cars with a spherical camera affixed to the top. The device looks like an all-seeing eye that has nine directional cameras for 360° views at a height of about 2.5 meters. The new high-resolution replica of the world that Google provides is every voyeur’s dream—one can virtually visit an endless variety of places from the comforts of one’s own home.

In the catalogue to the show Exposed: Voyeurism, Surveillance, and the Camera since 1870, editor and curator Sandra Phillips compared the biblical story about elders spying on Susannah to present day, saying: “Today, however they would use cell phones to grab a picture of a young woman in a compromised position and send it to friends, having located her garden through Google Earth. Human hunger for seeing the forbidden has not changed. The technologies to facilitate it have.”

And she’s right—this technology has been adapted quickly by artists and devoured by the art world. Doug Rickard used Google Street View to see the back roads of the nation in a series called A New American Picture, which was featured at New York City’s MoMA last year and is currently on view at Yossi Milo Gallery. Geoff Dyer wrote extensively in the Guardian about Rickard, saying: “Any doubts as to the artistic – rather than ethical or conceptual – merits of this new way of working were definitively settled by Rickard’s pictures. It was William Eggleston who coined the phrase “photographing democratically” but Rickard has used Google’s indiscriminate omniscience to radically extend this enterprise – technologically, politically and aesthetically.”

Rickard says he probably made 10,000 images of this work before narrowing the selection down to just under 80 images. “The only difference [between this work and traditional street photography] is that the world’s frozen, so you’re limited to that surrounding,” he says. “You’ve got a fixed lens and your distance is determined by the width of the street, not where you walk. But there’s a lot in kinship with traditional photography that was really partly responsible for me being able to embed 1,000 hours into this in four years.”

Jon Rafman’s project 9-Eyes captures uncanny images of reality and provides a case study on the unrelentingly objective aesthetic that comes from Google Street View. ”The potential sentimentality of these photographs is counteracted by the manner in which they were captured,” he says. “There is a tension between the indifferent robotic camera, and the human gaze that sees meaning and interprets narratives in these images. That tension is the essence of the project. People often say that technology is changing our perception of the world, changing our perception of reality, but I think that the inverse is also occurring—a technology becomes successful because it taps into something fundamental about contemporary consciousness, it expresses how we are already experiencing the world.”

Some artists, however, are looking at another aspect unique to the use of Google imagery. Clement Valla, through his project, Postcards from Google Earth, is finding the glitches and bugs unintentionally captured by Google Earth’s lens and documenting them to comment on the mistakes resulting from technology’s limitations. “Because Google Earth is continuously updating, there’s kind of no archive of these particular moments or situations,” he says. “So I thought it would be interesting to take them and print them as postcards.”

The prevalence of Google’s imagery and technology is already permeating the aesthetic of more traditional photography and even artists working in myriad disciplines from sculpture to street art. Manuel Vazquez still begins his process with taking his own pictures but later intergrates the aesthetic of surveillance imagery and Google Street View, as seen is his project Lonely Crowd, which incorporated the pixelated nature of digital works to convey the physical and emotional distances between strangers in a crowd. “The web has changed the way we access and read the city, through technologies that have shortened and broken the boundaries of space and time,” he says. “It is like a walk with no specific destination, affecting time, space and perspective with every click. There is not a linearity of past-present-future. It feels like a continuous flow of information that is updated.”

Fake Google Streetview car urban invention by artist group F.A.T. Lab, February 2010 at Transmediale 2010, Berlin. Image courtesy of Aram Bartholl.

Fake Google Street View car urban invention by artist group F.A.T. Lab, February 2010 at Transmediale 2010, Berlin

Interdisciplinary artist Aram Bartholl, meanwhile, has used Google imagery as the inspiration for some of his work but hardly produces only photography. Bartholl creates sculptural objects that represent virtual objects such as the red map marker icon found on Google Maps. “Services like Google Maps change the way we perceive the city,” he says. “I remember once I had a parcel service on the phone claiming my address didn’t exist because it couldn’t be found on Google Maps.” His works, which have been shown at Rencontres d’Arles, among other festivals, aim to explore how technology imitates reality and vice versa. “The map marker icon is just a 20 pixel interface on the screen, but when you switch to satellite mode and then zoom in more, it looks like it becomes part of the actual picture, casting a shadow on the city,” he says.

Despite the growing number of photographers who use Google in their works, it remains unclear how this technology will influence our perspective in photography—and perceptions of spatial reality—outside the virtual world.

In the meantime, we’d love to continue the conversation and hear your thoughts about how other artists are using Google Street View and Google Earth in the comments section below.

Paul Moakley is the Deputy Photo Editor at TIME. You can follow him on Twitter at @paulmoakley.

Reporting and interviews by Zara Katz, TIME photo intern and graduate student at CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. You can follow her on on Twitter @zarakatz.

Multimedia: Jim Goldberg’s out-of-print book Raised by Wolves

A short film about Jim Goldberg’s book ‘Raised by Wolves’. Fotografia . Seeing that the book has been out of print and hard to find, the studio decided to try and share this amazing work by making a movie about it/with it. Combining footage and audio from Jim’s archive, along with new video made specifically for this project, we hope it tells Dave & Echo’s story in a new and exciting way. Edited & animated by Brandon Tauszik – brandontauszik.com

Suitably creepy, and probably NSFW. Discovered via Wired’s Raw File Blog.

The Last Nights at The Western

In the world of casinos, you don’t think of Mom & Pop joints, but of mega-sized names like Wynn, Trump and Caesar. Jackie Gaughn and the Western Hotel & Casino don’t usually come to mind. But for gamblers living along Fremont Street in downtown Las Vegas, the Western was an institution, and a cheap one at that: $1 shots, $1 Coors Draft, $1 craps, $2 blackjack.

A Week at The Western Hotel – Las Vegas, NV. from Facing Change on Vimeo.

When it was built in 1970, the Western was the country’s largest bingo parlor. It soon became the kind of place where all the regulars knew each other, like the gambler’s version of Cheers. But as Las Vegas became supersized, the Western slowly lost ground. Gaughn, who owned the Western since it opened, sold it in 2004. And as the rest of downtown Las Vegas was reinventing itself, the Western stuck out like a desert artifact—the same reason it remained popular among the hotel and casino’s loyalists.

In November 2010, photographer Brenda Ann Kenneally spent 10 days shooting the Western, capturing the colorful and eclectic characters within the hotel. “I felt as though I knew every one immediately though I had never been there before,” she says. But by Monday, the Western had closed its doors, its rooms boarded up and its casino floor silent. The closing will make way for further redevelopment of the Fremont East District. But it’s unlikely that Las Vegas will see the likes of the Western again. “I cried when I heard that it was closing,” Kenneally says. “It was a place that you were just happy knowing existed—like the world that could sustain a place like The Western was a better world.”

Brenda Ann Kenneally is a Brooklyn-based photographer and founder of The Raw File. See more of her work here.

Josh Sanburn is a reporter-producer at TIME. Follow him on Twitter @joshsanburn.

Pete Brook and Prison Photography

Pete Brook is not a photographer. He’s an intelligent voice in the blog and magazine sphere, who writes a thoughtful photography blog, Prison Photography, exploring incarceration and prison reform around the world. He also writes about photography for Wired Magazine’s Raw File, and recently interviewed Elizabeth Avedon for his new interview column “Raw Meet.

Image by Victor Blue

I consider Pete a friend–we connected awhile back through our blogs and I want very much to support him in his efforts to dig deeper into the cause and result of a life behind bars. “We must stop warehousing people and be creative with rehabilitation. Prisons in the US are socially and economically unsustainable. As they exist, prisons are a liability … and they are ignored. Problems also exist in other countries.” Pete makes us look at the closed-off corners of our world that we’d prefer to ignore or not address, and he is relentless in his passion for this subject.

He has created a Kickstarter campaign: Prison Photography-on-the-road-stories behind the photographs, so he can hit the highway, connect with photographers who are looking at prisoners and prisons, conduct some interviews, and bring attention to this subject. Please consider supporting him in this venture.

Prison Photography’ on the Road is a journalism project. I will conduct over 40 audio interviews, publish them online and make them available to the prison reform and photography communities free of charge via Creative Commons licensing. My writing during the trip will also be CC licensed. I’m doing the legwork so others can enjoy the ride and use the results.

Image by Lori Waselchuk

‘Prison Photography’ on the Road is about photography. I’ll be meeting the most creative and celebrated photographers who, through their work in prisons, have shaped America’s visual culture and the debate on U.S. criminal justice.



Interviewees include:

Jenn Ackerman, award winning photographer for Trapped

Adam Amengual, commercial and documentary photographer

Victor Blue, seasoned photojournalist specialising in social and political story telling

Lloyd Degrane, commercial and documentary prisons, known for his series Prison

Amy Elkins, fine art photographer working on collaborative project with death row prisoners

Harvey Finkle, social documentary photographer

Tim Gruber, fine art and documentary photographer known for his series Served Out

Bruce Jackson, photographer and SUNY James Agee Professor of American Culture

Lou Jones, known for his death row portraits

Brenda Ann Kenneally, documentary photographer who focuses on women families and marginalised communities

Sean Kernan, documentary photographer of the series In Prison

Jon Lowenstein, NOOR member and award winning photojournalist

Deborah Luster, fine art photographer

Danny Lyon, pioneering documentary photographer

Frank McMains, photographer of multiple prison stories in Louisiana

Ara Oshagan, award winning documentary photographer known for Juvies

Mona Reeder, Dallas Morning News photojournalist, Robert F. Kennedy Award and Hillman Prize for Photojournalism winner

Joseph Rodriguez, documentary photographer, social activist, ICP instructor

Richard Ross, Guggenheim recipient and photographer

Jamel Shabazz, photographer, teacher, retired prison guard

Adam Shemper, psychotherapist and photographer

Jan Sturmann, documentary photographer

Stephen Tourlentes, professor and fine art photographer

Lori Waselchuk, documentary photographer

Max Whittaker, photojournalist and Prime Collective founder

Sye Williams,commercial photographer and gadfly

Taro Yamasaki, Pulitzer prize winner for photojournalism

Image by Steve Davis

‘Prison Photography’ on the Road is about prisons. I’ll be meeting some of the leading thinkers in prison arts, prison education, law and advocacy. Including, Rebecca Ginsburg of the Educational Justice Project, representatives of the Southern Poverty Law Center, folk at The Innocence Project and those working with juveniles and for re-entry programmes. I hope desperately to talk to Department of Corrections officials in some of the larger States.

‘Prison Photography’ on the Road is about education. I’ll deliver the lecture ‘American Prisons: Photography in the Era of Mass Incarceration’ to half a dozen colleges. Through the people I meet on the road, I hope to access prisons and jails to deliver the same material.

Image by Adam Amenguel

WHY?

U.S. prisons are under incredible pressures from all sides. Politicians have continually used tough on crime rhetoric to win votes, but longer sentences and the correctional philosophy of “incapacitation” has bloated prisons and not reduced rates of recidivism (which in the U.S. are higher than those of other countries). Prison education budgets have been slashed and felon disenfranchisement laws often place a released prisoner in a worse position to succeed than when they went in. Some public are fearful, some are in the dark, but either way their tax dollars are at work to continue inefficient practices.

The U.S. prison population has quadrupled in the past 35 years.

Today, 1 in every 100 U.S. adults is imprisoned.

At 2.3 million individuals incarcerated, the U.S. imprisons people at a rate six times that of the next most punitive Western nation, the United Kingdom

Women have suffered proportionally the most, with a near eight-fold increase in U.S. the number of U.S. female prisoners in the past 35 years.

The U.S. prison system disproportionately punishes poor people and minority groups.

Only the current economic crisis has brought about serious scrutiny of prison spending. Moves toward more sensible and effective non-custodial sentences as well as early release for non-violent or geriatric prisoners are steps in the right direction.

Now is a good moment to take stock, think about our culture and how it’s policies may move toward social justice imperatives.



Image by Jenn Ackerman

WHERE?

San Francisco, Oakland, Salt Lake City, Denver, Minneapolis, Madison, Milwaukee, Chicago, Detroit, Buffalo, Rochester, Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., Charlottesville, Atlanta, Birmingham, Montgomery, Jackson, New Orleans, Houston, Austin, Dallas, Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Flagstaff, Phoenix, Los Angeles … and places in between.



Image by Sean Kernan

YOUR DONATION

Funds will be used to buy gas for 8,000 miles (I’ve got a small car with good MPG) and food for 12 weeks (I am not a picky eater, nor do I have expensive tastes!), an audio recorder (I already have the microphone), three oil changes and a few road tolls.

Between now and the new year, I’ll be working diligently to connect with non-profit organisations who can benefit from using the material created. The project may last 12 weeks, but the long-tail of content will be used in perpetuity.

Pete Brook and Prison Photography

Pete Brook is not a photographer. He’s an intelligent voice in the blog and magazine sphere, who writes a thoughtful photography blog, Prison Photography, exploring incarceration and prison reform around the world. He also writes about photography for Wired Magazine’s Raw File, and recently interviewed Elizabeth Avedon for his new interview column “Raw Meet.

Image by Victor Blue

I consider Pete a friend–we connected awhile back through our blogs and I want very much to support him in his efforts to dig deeper into the cause and result of a life behind bars. “We must stop warehousing people and be creative with rehabilitation. Prisons in the US are socially and economically unsustainable. As they exist, prisons are a liability … and they are ignored. Problems also exist in other countries.” Pete makes us look at the closed-off corners of our world that we’d prefer to ignore or not address, and he is relentless in his passion for this subject.

He has created a Kickstarter campaign: Prison Photography-on-the-road-stories behind the photographs, so he can hit the highway, connect with photographers who are looking at prisoners and prisons, conduct some interviews, and bring attention to this subject. Please consider supporting him in this venture.

Prison Photography’ on the Road is a journalism project. I will conduct over 40 audio interviews, publish them online and make them available to the prison reform and photography communities free of charge via Creative Commons licensing. My writing during the trip will also be CC licensed. I’m doing the legwork so others can enjoy the ride and use the results.

Image by Lori Waselchuk

‘Prison Photography’ on the Road is about photography. I’ll be meeting the most creative and celebrated photographers who, through their work in prisons, have shaped America’s visual culture and the debate on U.S. criminal justice.



Interviewees include:

Jenn Ackerman, award winning photographer for Trapped

Adam Amengual, commercial and documentary photographer

Victor Blue, seasoned photojournalist specialising in social and political story telling

Lloyd Degrane, commercial and documentary prisons, known for his series Prison

Amy Elkins, fine art photographer working on collaborative project with death row prisoners

Harvey Finkle, social documentary photographer

Tim Gruber, fine art and documentary photographer known for his series Served Out

Bruce Jackson, photographer and SUNY James Agee Professor of American Culture

Lou Jones, known for his death row portraits

Brenda Ann Kenneally, documentary photographer who focuses on women families and marginalised communities

Sean Kernan, documentary photographer of the series In Prison

Jon Lowenstein, NOOR member and award winning photojournalist

Deborah Luster, fine art photographer

Danny Lyon, pioneering documentary photographer

Frank McMains, photographer of multiple prison stories in Louisiana

Ara Oshagan, award winning documentary photographer known for Juvies

Mona Reeder, Dallas Morning News photojournalist, Robert F. Kennedy Award and Hillman Prize for Photojournalism winner

Joseph Rodriguez, documentary photographer, social activist, ICP instructor

Richard Ross, Guggenheim recipient and photographer

Jamel Shabazz, photographer, teacher, retired prison guard

Adam Shemper, psychotherapist and photographer

Jan Sturmann, documentary photographer

Stephen Tourlentes, professor and fine art photographer

Lori Waselchuk, documentary photographer

Max Whittaker, photojournalist and Prime Collective founder

Sye Williams,commercial photographer and gadfly

Taro Yamasaki, Pulitzer prize winner for photojournalism

Image by Steve Davis

‘Prison Photography’ on the Road is about prisons. I’ll be meeting some of the leading thinkers in prison arts, prison education, law and advocacy. Including, Rebecca Ginsburg of the Educational Justice Project, representatives of the Southern Poverty Law Center, folk at The Innocence Project and those working with juveniles and for re-entry programmes. I hope desperately to talk to Department of Corrections officials in some of the larger States.

‘Prison Photography’ on the Road is about education. I’ll deliver the lecture ‘American Prisons: Photography in the Era of Mass Incarceration’ to half a dozen colleges. Through the people I meet on the road, I hope to access prisons and jails to deliver the same material.

Image by Adam Amenguel

WHY?

U.S. prisons are under incredible pressures from all sides. Politicians have continually used tough on crime rhetoric to win votes, but longer sentences and the correctional philosophy of “incapacitation” has bloated prisons and not reduced rates of recidivism (which in the U.S. are higher than those of other countries). Prison education budgets have been slashed and felon disenfranchisement laws often place a released prisoner in a worse position to succeed than when they went in. Some public are fearful, some are in the dark, but either way their tax dollars are at work to continue inefficient practices.

The U.S. prison population has quadrupled in the past 35 years.

Today, 1 in every 100 U.S. adults is imprisoned.

At 2.3 million individuals incarcerated, the U.S. imprisons people at a rate six times that of the next most punitive Western nation, the United Kingdom

Women have suffered proportionally the most, with a near eight-fold increase in U.S. the number of U.S. female prisoners in the past 35 years.

The U.S. prison system disproportionately punishes poor people and minority groups.

Only the current economic crisis has brought about serious scrutiny of prison spending. Moves toward more sensible and effective non-custodial sentences as well as early release for non-violent or geriatric prisoners are steps in the right direction.

Now is a good moment to take stock, think about our culture and how it’s policies may move toward social justice imperatives.



Image by Jenn Ackerman

WHERE?

San Francisco, Oakland, Salt Lake City, Denver, Minneapolis, Madison, Milwaukee, Chicago, Detroit, Buffalo, Rochester, Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., Charlottesville, Atlanta, Birmingham, Montgomery, Jackson, New Orleans, Houston, Austin, Dallas, Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Flagstaff, Phoenix, Los Angeles … and places in between.



Image by Sean Kernan

YOUR DONATION

Funds will be used to buy gas for 8,000 miles (I’ve got a small car with good MPG) and food for 12 weeks (I am not a picky eater, nor do I have expensive tastes!), an audio recorder (I already have the microphone), three oil changes and a few road tolls.

Between now and the new year, I’ll be working diligently to connect with non-profit organisations who can benefit from using the material created. The project may last 12 weeks, but the long-tail of content will be used in perpetuity.

Jehad Nga talks to Pete Brook about Professional Insecurities and Libyan Detention

Pete Brook of Prison Photography and Raw File has a great interview with Jehad Nga that covers everything from the insecurities that come with being a working photographer to Jehad’s detention while covering the uprising in Libya.

jehad nga photo from Something In The Way
From the series "Something In The Way" – Jehad Nga

If you look at my website, you’d think, “Here’s a photographer whose confident and secure in his work.” On a good day it’s a complete mess, but I am very happy with the mess. Dilemmas are hard and can break the spirit but they bring on just decisions about your work.

Jehad Nga

Head over to Raw File to read the interview. Go!

 

Posted by James Pomerantz

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