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Should Odd Google Street View Pictures Be Considered Art?

Image 31 of "Street View: A Series of Unfortunate Events" by Michael Wolf. (Michael Wolf)

Since Google Street View (GSV) was launched in 2007, it has been used for a variety of functions. Want to make sure you're not visiting a sketchy area of town? If you see bars on the windows while panning around with GSV, it might not be the best place. Don't want to knock on the wrong door for a friend's housewarming party? Check out GSV and see what the home looks like before you go.

Google applications can help serve these purposes. But what about GSV becoming art? That's right, artists and photojournalists are beginning to use Google's Map, Earth, and Street View applications in their work with some controversy among their peers.

Wired recently reported some people are scouring GSV looking for the "accident" photos and other artistic images, creating a new form of photojournalism that has sparked some controversy about the use of this digital media in art and journalism.

For example, former photojournalist Michael Wolf earned an honorable mention in February for his "Street View: A Series of Unfortunate Events", which captures oddities found in GSV,  in the Contemporary Issues category at the Word Press Photo Awards. Wolf and other artists using Google applications as their medium generally have cameras on their computer to capture images:

"It's a real file that I have, I'm not taking a screenshot," he told The British Journal of Photography [via Wired]. "I move the camera forward and backward in order to make an exact crop, and that's what makes it my picture. It doesn't belong to Google, because I'm interpreting Google; I'm appropriating Google."

You can view Wired's compilation of some accidental and other artistic images captured by artists and photojournalists using GSV.

In late July, NPR also covered art created using Google Maps and Google Earth. Jenny Odell, one of the artists mentioned, created a gallery called "Satellite Collectings" using aerial images of baseball diamonds, swimming pools, nuclear cooling towers, grain silos and more from Google Satellite View. NPR mentioned artwork from several others who have used these applications:

"Satellite Collections" is one of several art projects that have used the visual data supplied by Google's Maps and Earth applications. Clement Valla's gallery of warped bridges and roads culls artifacts of the program's automated image stitching.

[. . .]

Odell usually likes to "wander" through the maps, turning labels off so she loses track of where she is. "It's a lot like being in a plane," she writes, "flying over your own country but not actually being able to tell where you are or exactly what you're looking at. I like the idea of the Earth as an endlessly readable surface."

Google has also used its technology in an artistic way. Its Earth application was set up to view famous works of art in Spain's Prado museum. Users can view The Prado in Google Earth at far more detail (1,400 times more megapixels) than a 10 megapixel digital camera would take.

Here's a video of how Google did it in The Prado:

One last thing…
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