Michael Wolf. A Series of Unfortunate Events #49. 2010
Across the road from us is an excellent new show at Bruce Silverstein. Covering four bodies of work by the photographer Michael Wolf, all dealing with the modern urban condition, the heart of the show is comprised of a series of large blow-ups of images Wolf has taken from Google’s “Street View”.
For those not up to speed on Google’s latest good/evil technology, "Street View" is a feature in Google Maps and Google Earth that provides panoramic views from various positions along many streets in the world. It was launched in 2007 in several cities in the United States, and has since expanded to include cities and rural areas worldwide. Google "Street View" displays images taken from a fleet of specially adapted cars. On each of these vehicles there are nine directional cameras for 360° views, GPS units for positioning, and three laser range scanners for the measuring of up to 150 feet and 180° in the front of the vehicle.
Due to an initial outpouring of privacy concerns, in 2008, Google announced that it was testing face-blurring technology on its photos of the busy streets of Manhattan. This technology uses a computer algorithm to search Google's image database for faces and blurs them. Sadly, if you visit "Street View" today you will find it much in evidence.
A quick search will also find the web full of sites where someone has scoured "Street View" for scenes a little less aesthetic and artful than Wolf - at least that's how I see it. And like Gursky's "Oceans", it's who sees the art in the everyday first that counts. But to test this theory, below you'll see four more pictures by Michael Wolf and three images from random websites having fun with "Street View". See if you can tell which are which. Answers to follow in a couple of days.