THE NEW YORKER: “Doug Rickard’s Street View” (2012)

By Rachel Klapheke, The New Yorker, October 26, 2012

Early in 2009, the photographer Doug Rickard, the artist behind “American Suburb X” and “These Americans,” became immersed in the online world of Google Street View. His virtual travels led him to some of the most economically depressed areas of the country. “All of us have a ‘Detroit’ in our minds, or a ‘Dallas’ or a ‘Fresno,’ even if we have not travelled there,” Rickard told me. “I think that I chose pictures that partially represented those biases and media-affected notions of place, and yet I explored immensely these American places, a thousand hours or more, gaining an understanding of the conditions.”

In Google Street View, the absence of an engaged eye through which to interpret its images can lend them an eerie quality. “The height gives a feeling of looking down on the scene, and this affects the emotional read and subtext of the work,” Rickard said. “Also, Google’s blurring of the faces and the lo-fi nature of the images changed the individuals into symbols or emblems and representative of larger notions, such as race and class, instead of personal stories that would have wanted to emerge with recognition.” His appropriation of these images, he said, is what makes them a valid form of photography. “I wanted to represent the inverse of the American Dream, and yet the work is also very personal and subjective, colored by my choices and selection,” he said. “The very definition of photography is expanding. Personally, I am ecstatic about it, and I see a massive frontier that is unfolding to feed and fuel my obsessions.”

All photographs courtesy Yossi Milo Gallery, New York, where Rickard’s “A New American Picture” is on view through November 24th.

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