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I Took a Virtual Photography Road Trip Using Google Street View

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During the COVID-19 pandemic, we have been asked to stay home and shelter in place. This restriction has only increased my desire to explore and road trip. I still need to create and think critically throughout this time, but if I can’t go to new places, how can I make new work?

I’d rather not go back through old work and try to reframe it or come up with a new series from old photographs. To circumvent these restrictions, I decided to use Google Earth’s Street View in lieu of getting in the car and driving to the many bookmarked locations I have.

I am virtually road tripping through various towns that I wanted to visit in-person and making images that I would have most likely made if I was actually at that location.

Because I am able to move the Street View camera in essentially any position I want, I am able to make compositions in the same way I would as if I was standing in that exact location holding my own camera. Of course, I can’t make all the images I want because of the limitations of the car’s position in the road.

After capturing the images with Google Earth I bring them into Lightroom and apply the same style of editing that I would to any other image of mine. The resulting images fit naturally with my existing body of work and are almost indistinguishable from the rest of it.

Only little details in each image offer insight into how the images were made. Look closely and you may see where parts of the landscape don’t quite line up, or digital fragments resulting from the stitching that the Google camera must do.

Who is the photographer in this series? Is it the person driving the Street View car? Is it me? Are these appropriations or original works of photography? Do we need to know how the images were made? All of these questions are what keeps me interested in this series and I think are great questions to discuss.

I plan on continuing this series, titled Road Trip in Quarantine, throughout the pandemic and see where it takes me. You can follow along on my Instagram.


About the author: Tim Melideo is a portrait and fine art photographer based in San Diego, California. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. You can find more of Melideo’s work on his website, Twitter, and Instagram.

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