by Jonathan Blaustein

I like to mix things up. It’s a must for this column. Week in, week out, I’m going to write about a book. If I can’t sustain quality commentary, this venture disappears.

Last week, I cut out the personal narrative, and wrote about a book that proved controversial. Mostly because it didn’t look like the things I normally proffer. It was highly commercial, and not exactly original. But it also managed to create a maelstrom in the comment section. I won’t push my luck and say the work was brilliant, because it was not. But I have found that neat and tidy, safe projects do little to promote discourse.

Great art, or at least important art, need not be pretty. In fact, moving into anti-aesthetic territory is an easy way to distinguish “art” from “decoration.” Ugly doesn’t sell as well, until it’s branded “Genius,” but it does get people to rub their chins and fidget awkwardly in a museum context. Tweaking people’s expectations of attractiveness is a good way to get them to think.

Furthermore, as I discussed in the Boris Mikhailov review last year, when examining difficult, exploitative scenarios, it’s disingenuous to try to make things gorgeous. Or to avoid exploitation in one’s process. Difficulty of subject matter, rendered as metaphor through difficulty of concept and image structure, is a good way to take the carpool lane to MOMA.

Just ask Doug Rickard. Despite the fact that there are multiple artists that have come out with Google-street-view-themed projects in the last few years, Mr. Rickard is the one who made it into MOMA’s coveted “New Photography 2011” exhibition. Why?

He managed to take all the messy, uncomfortable strands that jut out of Google’s immaculate quilt, and tie them together in a coherent and edgy way. Mr. Rickard looked at a situation in which a major corporation was invading people’s privacy to an unprecedented degree, and he chose to take that exploitation one step further.

Is this a book review? Of course it is. Because Mr. Rickard’s new monograph, “A New American Picture,” published by Aperture, turned up in my book stack recently. The book is well-produced, with an essay and an interview with the artist. Aperture never scrimps on production quality, so you can trust that the book is well-built. The images themselves, however, will not match up with your expectations of quality and good looks.

The artist spent countless hours exploring dirt poor urban and desolate rural regions of the United States. All via Google’s street view interface. He slowly “wandered” the streets of some of the most crime-ridden, dangerous, and bleak spots, all without leaving the comfort of his Aeron chair. (OK, I made that last detail up.)

The plates are muddy, compelling, and not particularly attractive. On several, I could even spot banding. It appears that he output prints, which were then re-photographed for the book. Clearly, they’re meant to look “poor” on purpose.

And as to the subject matter, Mr. Rickard sees his exploration as a 21st Century version of Walker Evans and Dorothea Lange rolling, in physical form, through the same types of poor places, looking for photos. Documenting poverty. Shining light on the disenfranchised.

The big story here, though, is how the artist shamelessly exploits the poor folks in the photographs. It’s safe to assume they won’t see a dime, mostly because he couldn’t track them down if he tried. He’s not the one who took the source photos to begin with. Google did. He’s just doubling down on the capitalistic land grab. If the suckers didn’t know Google stole their “image”, how will they ever afford the plane ticket and admission fee to go see the prints on the wall at MOMA? (Or for free at Yossi Milo, through November 24)

The answer is, of course, they won’t. This is smart work, and Mr. Rickard is a smart artist. He knows his pictures won’t change a damn thing about poverty in America, and he also knows that none of his subjects are ever likely to even hear about his project. Most of them might not even have access to the Internet.

It’s a dirty, wicked system. Some folks are born with money, get a great education, live in city sky-scrapers, and travel the world. Other folks live in middle-class suburbs, inured from the “fear” of gang violence, but engaged in more-than-ever-before diverse communities. And some folks just get the shit end of the stick. Like I said, difficult art for a difficult situation.

Bottom Line: Smart and well-conceived, but you might not like it

To purchase “A New American Picture” visit Photo-Eye

Full Disclosure: Books are provided by Photo-Eye in exchange for links back for purchase.

Books are found in the bookstore and submissions are not accepted.


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  1. uh oh. Rickard gives the shoe-leather-burning-button-pushing photographers fits, so I expect to see “zero respect” and “emperors new clothes” comments on this one. I like the mind expanding and finger in the eye of the establishment aspect to the work, so if it sparks a new approach then mission accomplished. whether or not it will stand as a body of work only time can tell.

    • I’m actually pretty psyched on these…I’ll scrolled through the images before reading that it was from streetview and personally I think they hold up….I don’t really care that he snatched them from google. The images work really well and hold your attention.

      They guy obviously has an idea and perspective he wants to communicate and I think he’s done that successfully.

    • I’m with you on these. Its not about photographs its about images, images he found, cropped, edited. Images that are his expression, culled from faceless data.

  2. Doesn’t this fall under copyright infringement? Rickard may have selected frames but he didn’t shoot the imagery. I love the concept and the images but I can’t help but wonder if this is towing the line on fair use.

  3. Artist? ‘aggregator of images’ would be a better description. And a comparison to FSA photographers is nothing if not laughable. If what Stephen Mayes of VII Photo Agency is valid — “Photographs are no longer things, they’re experiences.” — then Mr. Rickard is definitely operating in a photographic ‘no man’s land’. He doesn’t make any ‘thing’ on his own, he takes ; and he doesn’t participate in the experience of photographing. Sad indeed.

    • I think you need to re-read that interview from which you took the quote:

      “… the role changes in that professionals are no longer the eyewitness. Think of all those [photography compilation] books in the 20th century which were called “eye witness” or “the eyes of the world” or something similar. That’s no longer relevant when there are 4 billion cellphone eyes out there.

      Professionals are valuable as commentators, interpreters, validators. We know what is happening in Syria but for sifting all the detail and taking a position on all of that, we still look to the professionals.”

      Rickard takes exactly that position which Mayes describes, i.e. that of a commentator, interpreter, validator as opposed to an eye-witness.

      • I think you might want to look at it again also. He is saying that professional photographers, with camera in hand, are the ones who are valuable to us today because in the images they produce, they comment, they interpret and they validate for the rest of us. And understood here, in Mayes statement, is that they are involved in the visionary act of making the image. What Rickard is doing may involve all of those endeavors, but in a manner once-removed from the real act of photographing. His work for me is more like that of a critic, who comments, interprets and validates but has no stake in the creation of the work.

        • Yes, Rickard’s work involves all of those endeavors except the real act of photography. But if those endeavors are where the value of a professional lies then the act of taking the picture becomes secondary. And he’s talking about “professionals” not “professional photographers” so he’s probably also including journalists and editors.

          Last but not least, let’s not forget that this guy is an editorial journalism guy while Rickard’s work is art. There are rules and guidelines in journalism which make very much sense there but it’s hard to see how they would apply to art.

          • I guess I will take refuge in the word. “The word photography comes from two ancient Greek words: photo, for “light,” and graph, for “drawing.” “Drawing with light” is a way of describing photography.” And state that, in my opinion, what Rickard does is not photography. It might be art, broadly defined, but there is nothing in the process that makes it ‘photography’. He is not a photographer. I think Rickard should probably be judged on his curatorial and editorial (book) merits, because after all, that is what he is doing. Nothing more.

            • I still don’t quite get your point. Why should he be judged any way at all?
              The book is a photobook. It’s a book of photographs and it is also about photography.
              Is Rickard a photographer? I’m sure he is. (Almost everyone’s a photographer these days.) So this is a photobook by a photographer. Did he take the actual Google photographs? Of course not. He’s not claiming that he did. It might be a photobook by a photographer which does not consist of his own pictures (in the usual sense).
              Rickards work should be judged on the basis on its qualities as a book or exhibition, not on the basis of whether or not it was made by a “real photographer”. His abilities as a shutter-operator might be relevant in a commercial work-for-hire situations where clients need to know what to expect but not in regards to a finished artwork.

              PS: As a photographer I have learned that the photography is the easy part whereas the editing/curating is much harder. YMMV.

              • Then we will let it go at that. To me, he may be a photographer, but here he is wearing the hat of an editor/curator of someone else’s images. And I believe that distinction is important.

                • While I’d agree that there is a distinction to be made, I’m not quite sure it is as simple as you propose. I don’t really think his role here is that of a simple editor/curator (which is hard enough to begin with).
                  Let me propose two scenarios to illuminate what I mean. In the first I go out with Canon 5DII or something, walk around and take a few thousand photos of things I find interesting. Then I give you the CF card and ask you to edit them down to a small amount of images that make up a photo series.
                  Now let’s look at another scenario. I put on a helmet that is equipped with a four videocameras facing all four directions, together covering 360degrees. I just go about my day, not thinking of the helmet on my head, and at the end of the day I give you all the video footage the cameras have recorded and ask you to make up a photo series of screen caps from the video footage.
                  While in the first scenario I would be happy to agree that you’re simply editing/curating, I’m not so sure the same can be said for the second scenario. The most basic thing a photographer has to do is to make a decision. Even a child operating a camera on full auto has to decide where to point the camera and when to press the shutter. In the first example I have made an aesthetic decision when I took the pictures and then I give them to you to decide which ones of my decisions you deem good. But in the second example with the helmet cameras I have not made any aesthetic decisions at all. Instead I have now passed on that part of the decision process to you. You’re faced with an overwhelming amount of possibilities to decide and it is up to decide where you see a picture.
                  That is why I think you cannot merely refer to what Rickard did as curating or editing. It might not be straight photography but it’s also not editing.

                  • My original comment spoke of Rickard being divorced from the experience of making the photograph, and hence the problem I have with calling him a photographer. I called him an aggregator and later gave him some credit with the moniker ‘editor/curator’. I guess I was not clear enough about that because your two scenarios here do not work for me as examples of your argument, because both disassociate the editor of your images (me) from the creative act of photographing, You are presenting me your images. In neither case did I have a hand in the decisions involved in making them. There was no link, emotional, visual, psychological, etc. on my part to the photographs. I photograph to express something of myself, my beliefs and my relation to the world. Why would I want to confront ‘an overwhelming amount of possibilities…… to decide where you see a picture’ when I have no stake in the endeavor and there is no risk involved on my part? Sounds incredibly boring and pointless. That link is the part that is missing in your example and in Rickard’s work.

                    • With the examples I wasn’t trying to make the argument that he’s a photographer but that simply calling him an editor or curator is too simplistic since what he’s doing is not what an editor or curator usually does.

                      As for your point about there being no link, I strongly disagree. For me at least a large part of my relation to the world occurs through the internet. I could be talking to a real person I actually know right now but instead I’m discussing with a stranger on a blog. And of course there’s Facebook and all the other things that keep us busy most of the day. To say that I have no emotional, visual or psychological link to what happens on the screen in front of me would just be plain wrong.

                      Is the process of wandering through Google Streets boring? It would be for me. I would never do a project like this. I like to photograph because it allows me to engage with the real world.
                      But that’s completely irrelevant when I look at other people’s work. All I care for is whether or not it’s boring to look at, not whether or not it was boring to produce. Sometimes a boring process can yield interesting pictures. Last week’s “Stay Cool” book surely was very fun to make but it’s still boring to look at.

  4. The real benefit to having a camera in your hand, is that it opens up doors into the lives of strangers. Even a guy like me, who doesn’t necessary like people, can see the beauty in that.

    Walking around, searching for pictures, getting lost, meeting people, getting invited into their homes, discovering life, that’s what photography is all about. At least the photojournalist/street/documentary branch.

    A “photographer” who chooses to sit behind a computer screen (where’s the fun it that?) when they could go out and walk these streets is highly suspect in my eyes.

    Maybe being included in anything MOMA does with the words “new” and “photography” in it should be less coveted.

    I think somebody needs to play the douche card!

    • Right on! I think the real photographer is the guy driving the Google car.

      • You’re right there, we don’t know anything about who that was, but who’s to say he/she didn’t see what was happening, and was hopeful of some moment being recorded, to break the monotony of driving around in that thing..

    • who cares how he made the images…i don’t care if you want to call him a photographer or not. And I doubt Rickard is worried about it either. It’s sort of beside the point. The guy is making a commentary on a larger issue. They guy has a better vision than probably more than half of what I see “professional” photographers doing today w/ their $5000 camera kits.

  5. “It’s safe to assume they won’t see a dime, mostly because he couldn’t track them down if he tried. ” I fundamentally disagree. If Rickard got off his a** and actually visited those locations in real-life, he would probably find many of the people in those images. There is not much mobility in these neighborhoods, filled with those in poverty or near-poverty, and most couldn’t leave if they wanted to.

    What happened to judging photography on the strength of the images, rather than on the novelty of how they were created (digital vs film vs instagram vs giant garbage can camera and so on)?

    If this type of work becomes more popular, I think it most certainly foreshadows how all digital photography is converging (and has been discussed before): simply grab images from a huge stream, a’la hi-def video capture. When you find something that looks cool, grab it!

    And with the advent of more sophisticated programming, an application will find those images for you, so nobody even needs to cull through those boring terrabytes.

    If you want to identify at least one scenario where photography as a profession can be eliminated, this is one.

  6. Quote:”Like I said, difficult art for a difficult situation.”
    That’s what makes it art. Convention goes like this: The masses are asses.
    Everything else that asks questions is art.
    If I’m pleased or happy when looking at images it’s a version of porn or quenches a fetish, habit or sets some nurons on fire that go to something very non visceral like fresh baked cookies.
    Heidi said as much on a previous daily edit.
    I think this review is precient with the direction we are headed regarding DRM. To paraphrase a current tactic used by the government to describe doing what our King finds expedient regarding eliminating the bad people without all the messy details of law and applied principles namely: “Extra-aesthetic.”

  7. Why would I buy the book? I could just go on google street view and go up any street I want. Snore….

  8. i’ll just remind all that art is only art if it gets approved by a curator. always. so if it hangs in the moma it is art by the very definition of it. good or bad doesnt matter, if it got the seal.
    now what happened here is that the curation process is taken one step down the ladder, where the artist doesnt create but curate, too.
    this would be most revolutionary if Mr Rickard was the owner and curator of MOMA itself, bundling the whole power and concept of art into one person.
    but as it stands it is merely a cool play with the media and expectations with some really nice crops which i happen to like a lot.

  9. Many of you are way too caught up in words. The images are cool. That’s all I care about. The process and the ‘controversy’, that’s all just to have you participate in the art. You don’t have to. Just look.

    • Right on.

  10. “Robo photo”
    Place a camera on an Roomba, turn them on, let them go. Blind-folded random selection to follow.

  11. Mr. Rickard has done an impressive job of editing a huge number of banal found images and turning them into an interesting book. He’s just pointing out what he found, what anyone could have found. Good for him. Maybe Google should have thought of this first.

    • …what anyone could have done but did not, is what I meant to say.

  12. Making assumptions about the people in the images is just way off base. No one knows squat about anyone in these images. Anything said about them from people who don’t know them is false and highly misleading.

    • 1) Speculation is not necessarily false.

      2) I think it’s clear that the pictures are about society, not about specific individuals, especially since Google Street View blurrs faces, thus eliminating identity.

  13. Compiling a photo series on the basis of Google Street View pictures is certainly easier than compiling the same series from pictures one has taken oneself. But we all know that the quality of an artwork is not dependent on the level of technical skill required to create it. This is such a commonplace that it is even silly to repeat it.

    However, nobody should think that compiling a meaningful and interesting photo series is an easy feat just because the images already exist. And let’s not mistake this for a pure editing job of a given set of images. If Google Street View photographs everything then the “virtual” photographer finds himself presented with the same question as the real photographer, i.e. where to point the camera (with the very important difference that he only gets to decide the where, not the when). People like to praise good photographers for having “a good eye” yet they love to criticize them for not using the rest of their body to take a picture.
    And this, I think, is the strength of Rickard’s work. His aesthetic is positively reminiscent of the American color photography from the 70s which has been so influential in regards to the American myth. The blurry retro looking pictures with their Eggleston/Shore color palletes show a new American picture which is remarkably similar to the old American picture. But they do not evoque nostalgia because they do not show a picture of better times, they show a picture of a part of society for which times have not gotten any better.

    • “Eggleston/Shore”. That thought struck me as well, and the fact that Google street view pictures, even if they were cropped and possibly toned or enhanced, are not so far away from how two photographers who are considered great artists have seen the world. But of course Eggleston and Shore, whether you’re a fan of their work or not, at least went out and made their photographs themselves.

      • I think it’s slightly misleading to refer to this kind of work as simply cropping a picture. Taking a picture from Google Street View does not strike me as very similar to taking a crop from a pre-existing picture in the traditional sense (as e.g. Richard Prince’s Cowboy pictures). For all intents and purposes there’s no authorship to the Google Street View pictures. The pictures are similar to Eggleston’s and Shore’s because Rickard probably wanted to create similar pictures, not because Google Street View takes those kinds of pictures.

        I’m personally a huge fan of Eggleston, Shore, Sternfeld, etc. but I also think that when photographers go out and take these kinds of pictures nowadays it’s most often just boring and derivative. The reason why I think Rickard’s work succeeds is exactly because he did not take the pictures himself. He shows us pictures of pictures of reality, not reality itself.

        • A very interesting way of thinking about his process, and it makes sense that he may have set out to create images that were similar to an Eggleston or a Shore photograph. I would love to hear him talk about it. I wonder if there is an interview with him to be found anywhere…

          • After reading your comment I did a Google video search and there is actually a video of Rickard talking about the work. Funnily enough he does mention Eggleston and Shore specifically in regards to the color. :-)

  14. This work succeeds on a multitude of levels- not to mention, it fucks with a lotta peoples’ heads. Is it a lazy man’s guide to photojournalism? You bet. It is very much a one trick pony, but a well done, well thought out one- definitely not much sweat involved, but pretty imaginative nonetheless. Again, if anyone could have done it- everyone would already have…

    It raises interesting questions socially. Is he exploiting these anonymous people, or reminding us that they do, in fact, exist? In an age where politicians rarely acknowledge their existence, one could argue that this is but a novel and perhaps ingenious approach to remind us of that existence right on our monitor screen- reality encroaching upon our sacred, personalized virtual landscape. A New American Picture in no way substitutes for or surpasses traditional photojournalism, but perhaps it’ll inspire some highly critical and intrepid photographer to seize the initiative and “duplicate” this virtual essay live and in person- and show us how to do it right!

    Artistically, no doubt that this enterprise is a collaboration. Google supplied the jabs, Mr. Rickard- the knock out blow(s). The colors are great, the compositions- likewise. And yes, argue all ya want, but he did compose them. And it most certainly helps drive a virtual nail into the coffin of those who measure success by the megapixel. These images succeed despite their 1.2 megapixels!

    Give credit where credit is due, if nothing else he’s revived much needed debate, discussion and examination into the role of art, photojournalism and the very subjects real live photographers have long used, and often dismissed, in the time it takes to walk, or scroll away.

  15. This book review is a deliberate baiting of the viewership. In protest I will not post a reply.

    • Ha, that was my reaction as well. But the trolling worked.

      My only comment is in response to the idea that “the artist shamelessly exploits the poor folks in the photographs. It’s safe to assume they won’t see a dime…”

      How were they ever to see a dime off these pictures in any scenario? Traditional street photographers don’t pay their subjects. And they don’t track them down later once they’ve hit the big time in order to pay them. If this qualifies as shameless exploitation, then you’d have to level that same charge against everyone from Atget to Winogrand.

      • “… I don’t feel that publishing a photograph in a magazine is tied to change. Awareness? Sure. But change? No…” – Emily Shiffer

        -Nov issue of PDN- Helping Communities Speak For Themselves

  16. Art is concept + craft, but first and foremost it’s concept.

    Great concept + shitty craft is still great art. (Listen to Leonard Cohen’s voice…)
    Shitty/zero concept + great craft = cloying decoration. (Visit any of the many “serious amateur” photo sharing sites, or listen to pop radio.) Yuck.

    I find that too much of the discussion here obsesses with the craft part of the equation and not enough on the concept part.

    It’s like the standard Andy Warhol argument about art: “It’s not art. Hell, even I could paint a picture of a frikkin’ soup can.” Yeah, but you didn’t because you never had the idea nor the underlying thought structure to do that.

    Rickard edits from the huge bucket of Google images to make his art. “Hell, I could do that. He’s not even shooting pictures!” Yeah, but you didn’t.

    As a photographer working hard to make art, here’s my take-away:
    If a brainless robo-camera on top of a car zig-zagging its way through the streets of America can take these pictures, what kind of challenge does that present to a conscious shoe-leather photographer walking through the world who can make decisions on where to point the camera and when to push the button? How are you any different than the robot? And are the millions and millions of people taking billions and billions of phone photos just one big multi-celled brainless robot?

    I won’t buy this book. But I am very intrigued by the provocative ideas Rickard is playing with. Go, dude, go.

    • Your ‘brainless robo-camera’ comment is a joke, right? Or at least a rhetorical question, no?

      • “brainless robo-camera”
        Not a joke, not a rhetorical question. Google sends out cars with cameras sticking out the top that Hoover up as much data as is technically possible, and they do this automatically and indiscriminately as long as there’s daylight. It doesn’t matter if there’s someone standing on the sidewalk or not. What else would you call such a device?

        • I was actually referring to the second section of your comment, where you speak of the challenge to an actual human being ‘walking through the world’. Are you seriously suggesting that a robo-camera can infuse an image with as much drama, pathos, sentiment, past, present etc. etc. as our ‘conscious shoe-leather photographer’ ? “How are you any different than the robot?” ?????? WTF. I myself take that as an insult to me and to the millions of other photographers, dead and living, and the images we/they have produced. But I won’t presume to speak for any other photographers. And I sure as shit don’t consider myself part of ‘just one big multi-celled brainless robot’. As far as I can tell this isn’t ‘Brazil’. Not yet anyway.

          • You miss my point (which was not expressed clearly enough.) Please take no offense. I am definitely among photographers concerned with drama, pathos, nostalgia, non-linear narrative, metaphor, etc, etc. I’m obsessed with using craft to get that all across to the viewer. I’m a classicist, a traditionalist, and probably an artistic conservative also concerned with line, form, light, balance, etc.

            But the work of Rickard opens up a line of discussion in the new world of ubiquitous image-making that is worth having. I see him as a provocateur intent on tweaking the king’s nose. That’s a good thing.

            A couple of clarifications:
            First, Google IS using a brainless robo-cam.
            Second, the brainless multi-celled robocam to which I refer is the collective body of cellphone owners who constantly, and without much thought about pathos, click away at virtually every corner of the earth and every imaginable human event. This is as distinguished from those of us who do thoughtfully aim the camera in order to express something larger than the moment.

            That said, I’m intrigued by the idea that, given a virtually endless supply of these “crowd-sourced” images (…actually, what do we call them?…), a thoughtful artist can go through them in the same way a traditionalist can “walk through the world” and make an artistic statement. It’s not something I would do, nor am I particularly interested in the actual piece Rickard made. But it’s the process that I find intriguing.

            As to what we call those images from which Rickard draws: I’m not sure. They represent their own genre. Certainly not the kind of images that you or I or anyone who’s commented here would make. They’re more like raw material, paint in the tube waiting to be applied to canvas by a real artist.

            BTW, someone earlier mentioned Prince’s work appropriating the Dick Durrance’s work. I see no parallel between what Rickard and Prince are doing. I’m still very troubled by Prince’s work.

            • Thanks for clarifying. I am in agreement with a lot of what you say, but just have a hard time wrapping my head around the concept of the appropriation of images made by others, in whatever way, shape, form or use.

  17. It sure didn’t take long for the “you’re just not smart enough to get this” rationalization to raise its ugly head.

    • Not a rationalization at all. Just a comment about how this kind of work challenges the status quo – always a good thing. There’s great comfort in traditional craft. Much less comfort in challenging concepts.

      I’ll go with Jonathan’s comment: “Smart and well-conceived, but you might not like it.”

  18. I just bought his book covered his name with mine and will now start sending it to galleries. There are so many people doing this work right now I already feel its jumped the shark. Aaron Hobson is for me someone who doing more original work in this vein mainly because he’s take the shots and the doing some heavy photoshop work that to me makes them much more honestly his work.

  19. How come most of the comments here are about whether it is good or bad art , whether the photographer or google should be given credit for the photographs, but it seems to bother no one that this kind of poverty exists in the USA. A country that is willing to spend trillions of dollars on war. What does this pictures say about American as a society? It seems Americans are only outraged by sex. If this pictures were showing nudity, most people here will be commenting about how outrageous this pictures are.

    • Probably because none of the images shown here is particularly good. There is no emotional connection with the viewer. None of them hit you in the gut. Could it simply be the distance between the camera and subjects? Could it be the inherent mechanics of the omnipotent, all-seeing Google camera?

      • Hi Keith… You’re exactly right that there appears to be an absence of emotional connection with the viewer. The reason is connected to what Riegl would have called a contest with nature. Blaustein is right that ugliness is a way of avoiding decoration and shallow aesthetics. However, ugliness comes with it’s own potential problems that can manifest in a soulless contest with “transitory nature.”

        Ugliness usually accompanies truth (real people, in real situations, doing real things etc.) The quest for truth requires an objective detachment when viewing nature in it’s many transitions. Unfortunately, this detachment can be taken to extremes resulting in a 3rd person perspective or scientific worldview.

        These photos display an extreme manifestation of the contest to reproduce transitory nature and that’s the reason for their soulless research-lab quality. It should come as no surprise that they were taken with a robo-camera since machines can correspond with a non-human 3rd person perspective.

    • Klaus- The forgotten back alleys of Google is about as close as anyone wants to acknowledge poverty and those besieged by it. Presidents (and wannabes) refuse to talk about it, and those barely middle class themselves are scared shitless they may yet plunge into the ever widening crevice of the forgotten. It’s the 21st cent American social leprosy- one makes sure to stay clear on the way to the coliseum.

    • Klaus,

      In America the poor are seen as being the victims of their own moral and ethical failings. Its the land of opportunity and they are too moraly bankrupt to make something out of themselves. This is a theme I hear outside of big cities, in Red States, all the time. This, in my opinion, is why there is no effective social safety net while at the same time we lead the world in prisons. The obsession with sexual scandals grows from the same place: a moral failing that must be punished. I don’t agree with this at all, I’m just conveying my observations.

  20. Here’s another: Dronestagram, from today’s Globe and Mail

    Caption for the picture at the top of the web version of this article
    “U.K. author James Bridle has been tracking reports of drone-strike sites, locating satellite pictures on Google Maps and posting them to, a project he calls Dronestagram. This a Yemenit village that was reportedly struck.”

    The articles focus is on the use of drones by the US military in Pakistan.

  21. When I first saw this book at the Aperture website, names like Joel Meyerowitz and William Eggleston came to my mind.

    It shows how important the right moment is: the right moment in one or several people’s move and the constellation to other people and objects.

    I’m surprised that these are random images, picked out by the artist. But then, consciousness can be a great hindrance in art. One of my favorite essays about artistic expression is Kleist’s “About the Marionet Theater”. Kleist about the physical arts: consciousness limits real expression, and only the mindless marionet is able to unhindered expression. Of course you can’t stick to the words here, but you get the direction.

    In one movie, made by Wim Wenders, and taking place in Lisboa, the lead character hangs a video camera down his back on a rope, the lens pointing away from him. So he roams the street, recording by chance, hoping for something on the video tape that is not limited by his choice, and so widens his perception.

    Today’s photo book wonderfully adds to the discussion of consciousness in art and the poetry of chance.

  22. This just listed by PDN.

    Two of the nominees for this prize use images captured from the web. One using google’s drive by street mapping, the other from the internet at large.
    A third nominee uses clippings from various paper sources.
    A fourth nominee uses a camera to capture his own images.

    Those that capture images from the web are in a symbiotic relationship with that medium.
    There are 4 kinds of symbiotic relationships:
    Amensalism: A symbiotic relationship between organisms in which one species is harmed or inhibited and the other species is unaffected.
    Commensalism: A symbiotic relationship in which one organism derives benefit while causing little or no harm to the other.
    Mutualism: An association between organisms of two different species in which each member benefits.
    Parasitisma: A relation between organisms in which one lives as a parasite on another.

    So, I would define the act of capturing images from the web and building a collection for publication or exhibition to be, Commensal Art.

    Practitioners of the art form should expect a parasitic relationship with a copyright attorney.

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