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Pulled from Google Street View Part 1
by Andrew Berardini

This is not a review of any exhibition in particular, but a response to some images that seem to come squarely under the rubric of “Worldwide.” Photographer Jon Rafman has pulled from the deep trove of  Google Street View’s photographic archive a number of strange and wonderful moments in the history of modern life, all caught with the supreme deadpan eye of Google’s cameras as they attempt to document every road in the world. What follows are merely a few impressions of things found out there in the wide world.

I wonder what she’s looking for. Is she looking at the car with the strange contraption of a camera strapped to it? Is she looking out for her lover, late again, as she complains to a friend on the phone? Is she the shoemaker's daughter, a receptionist on lunch break, the wealthy heiress on holiday in Southern France?

You see her there, framed by the ornate ironwork and heavy ornamentation of the building, ancient to my California eyes. The oldest building in my hometown, and it was a museum, dated to the late 19th century. Europe always looks so old to me, but she’s not old. She’s a young girl, phone pressed to her ear, looking for someone, for something, at someone, at something, perhaps gazing absentmindedly, out the window.

I want her most to be impatiently waiting for her lover I think, time pregnant as she hopes that he runs down the street, past the fruit market and the opera house trying to be on time for her. Is she nervous he might not come? When he does, will she be angry? Is he almost there now? I keep asking questions but I don’t actually want to know the answers.

You are looking at the only known picture of the coolest man in the world. Little do these pedestrians know of whom they happen to be passing. The bald guy on the corner is blowing it, one wonders what could be so important on his cellphone that he can't turnaround. Can’t any of them see? Apparently, they cannot.

The coolest man in the world has been in seclusion at an undisclosed location for time out of mind, once a year however, he leaves his secret bunker to hang out on a street corner in a folding chair. His absolute awesomeness is so radiant he can’t actually be seen by the naked eye, lest the space-time continuum of the viewer become permanently bent.

It is a great burden that he bears with all the implied nonchalance of his lofty station.

This is the only known photograph of him, all other images disappear from cameras moments after the image is taken, the sheer light of his being obliterating memory, as even machines can’t handle his aura. It is unknown if this camera had special properties or perhaps, as some experts claim, he was asleep, caught napping, his presence muted enough by sleep and his disguise for this important photograph to finally come into existence.

—Andrew Berardini


Posted by Andrew Berardini on 3/1/11

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