When we discovered artist Jon Rafman's amazing Google Street View shots earlier this year, we couldn't get enough.
So we were pretty excited to find out that his work was going to be shown in London's Saatchi gallery in an upcoming show, The Nine Eyes of Google Street View.
Rafman is a Montreal-based artist who uses and is inspired by digital media. His work looks at how society's ideas of identity and loneliness are affected by the internet - and after trawling through the robotically-taken images which comprise Google Street View, he was surprised at the snapshots of human life captured there.
Google Street View's robotic camera captures wildlife in Norway
Rafman says he has been fascinated by Google Street View ever since the service was first released - both by the magic of being able to explore the world from a computer and by the unique aesthetic properties of the images.
"I was Initially attracted by the noisy amateur aesthetic of the raw screen captures. For me, Street View evoked an urgency that I felt had been present in earlier street photography," he says.
It was also, he says, the fact that a human hadn't been involved in the photographic process that made the satellite images so appealing.
He tells HuffPost Culture: "The Street View photography had a spontaneous quality. It was as if the images could perform true docu-photography, capturing fragments of reality with all social context removed.
"Google Street View shows that automated cameras without a human photographer are recording major portions of our world. I like this tension between an automated camera and a human who seeks meaning. Isn't it appropriate that Google hides our identities - since we already see our neighbours' faces as indistinct blurs?"
One of the shots which will be appearing in Rafman's Saatchi show
It would be fair to say that the process of searching the world through satellite imagery might be tedious, which Rafman deals with by entering what he describes as a 'trance'.
He says, "I have to mentally prepare myself before I go Street View ‘surfing’. The process requires intense endurance, concentration and focus. Once I’m in the groove, however, I enter what could be considered a trance-like state."
"Often I search for six to 12 hours before finding anything but at other times I can hit a hot streak and find a half-dozen photos in one session. Frequently, I investigate areas that I’d be curious to visit in real life but at other times I just drop the Street View icon randomly somewhere in the world and start clicking"
"A major portion of the truly artistic work comes at the editing stage following the amassing of a large number of photos. Editing is a fundamental part of the artistic process, be it in the selecting of the photographs or in the constructing of sequences for an exhibition."
As well as the Saatchi show, Rafman is working with film for his next project.
Check out more of Rafman's street view shots in the gallery below:
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