A burning house, a flooded road, and a man with a gun. The images captured by the Google Street View van's automatic camera are poignant and weird. According to one artist, they're also how future historians will study our world.

Art Fag City recently ran a guest post from Montreal artist Jon Rafman, who sifts through Google Street View for arresting images like these. His found images, he claims, feel ultra-realistic and unbiased. He writes:

With its supposedly neutral gaze, the Street View photography had a spontaneous quality unspoiled by the sensitivities or agendas of a human photographer. It was tempting to see the images as a neutral and privileged representation of reality-as though the Street Views, wrenched from any social context other than geospatial contiguity, were able to perform true docu-photography, capturing fragments of reality stripped of all cultural intentions.


While collecting the images, he realizes that Street View has its own "visual grammar," and starts to see some similarities in the kinds of scenes captured. These seemingly-neutral images, which capture the mundane activities of everyday street life, may one day be mined by artists, historians, and cultural analysts who seek to understand what life in the early twenty-first century was like. Rafman's collection of found images suggests that the impressions they come away with may be odd and misleading. You can read his essay and check out more of his images at Art Fag City.

House fire in Pulaski, Arkansas.


Northern Irish blokes flip the camera the bird.

A man with a gun in Rapid City, South Dakota.


A woman on a beach in Puglia, Italy.

A very special club in Edinburgh, Scotland.


The streets of Philadelphia.

A gaggle of girls in Union Park, Florida.


Victoria Highway is flooded Australia, but the Google van keeps driving.