Google Street View and Curation

Lots of blogposts about this as a result of Doug Rickard’s book. I don’t have much to add except to shake my head a bit at both the outrage and the hand-wringing.

The complaints:

  1. Google Street view isn’t photography.
  2. This is somehow cheating because Rickard didn’t push the button.

Regarding number 1. Ruscha was doing stuff like this decades ago.* And there is a ton of possibility within Google Street View for making art. In fact, my choice of Julien Levesque in my new ideas in photography post is explicitly looking forward to how Google Street View has changed how we interact with images.

*See my mashups post.

Google Street View is increasingly how we will be interacting with and looking at our world. The art world had better be ready to deal with this. And the photography world needs to recognize the possibilities as well.

Regarding #2. I’ve already written a couple posts about decoupling the editing of an image archive with the creation of art. This is not new territory at all. Artists, in all media, have used the labor of others in the creation of art. Photography in particular is full of examples of noted photographers who didn’t edit* their own work and even more who don’t print their own work.

*Henri Cartier-Bresson is the most-frequently mentioned example but the upcoming Winogrand retrospective is the newest high-profile case.

Photography is also an interesting example where many photographers set up the situation where an external agent trips the shutter. Whether it’s Muybridge or Edgerton setting up a controlled lab environment for the shutter/strobe to be triggered or modern wildlife photographers who set camera traps in the hopes of catching a rare animal, the actual taking of the picture is not always made by the photographer.

Critique Rickard’s work for what it is, not what you say it isn’t. It’s completely fair to say that the images he selected don’t seem to be much different from what we expect existing street photography to look like. It’s not fair to say that he’s a hack or that this isn’t photography because he didn’t take any of these images himself.

Author: Nick Vossbrink

Blogging about Photography, Museums, Printing, and Baseball Cards from both Princeton New Jersey and the San Francisco Bay Area. On Twitter as @vossbrink, WordPress at, and the web at

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