In 2008, Jon Rafman’s 9eyes project started collecting images from Google Street View. Many of these images show humans in their most vulnerable situations. For instance, they bathe naked in the sea, rob or are robbed, flee or chase someone, visit prostitutes, are harassed, threatened with a knife, or pulled over the pavement by their hair. Then, there are situations like a pile of lost suitcases or a bus that had an accident and that is balancing on the edge of a high bridge, leaving the viewer in confusion whether it will fall or not.
An ongoing collection
Google sees everything, and Rafman archives this. It is worth visiting the website 9eyes now and then, as the images change about once a month. But Rafman also has published collections of archived images in books, magazines, and exhibition spaces.
Despite the photos often showing cruel or threatening situations, there is always a sense of the aesthetic present. Jon Rafman’s 9eyes also addresses the notion of privacy, or the lack thereof. Some of the faces must be blurred for publication, but the viewer is aware that it is possible to look up these pictures by themselves and get to know the faces of the people unknowingly involved. Everything is registered through the interface.
It seems like we can’t hide.