Google Street View gets photographic makeover

Plenty of photographers have tapped Google Street View for imagery with a documentary or photojournalistic feel. But Aaron Hobson doesn't like his Street View images raw. He likes to cook them a little.

Edward Moyer Senior Editor
Edward Moyer is a senior editor at CNET and a many-year veteran of the writing and editing world. He enjoys taking sentences apart and putting them back together. He also likes making them from scratch. ¶ For nearly a quarter of a century, he's edited and written stories about various aspects of the technology world, from the US National Security Agency's controversial spying techniques to historic NASA space missions to 3D-printed works of fine art. Before that, he wrote about movies, musicians, artists and subcultures.
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Edward Moyer
2 min read
With his manipulated Street View imagery, photographer Aaron Hobson hopes to take viewers to "enchanted and remote lands."

Plenty of photographers have tapped Google Street View for imagery.

Doug Rickard travels the byways of the U.S. via Street View to find images that, in the words of the Museum of Modern Art, "comment on poverty and racial equity in the United States, the bounty of images on the Web, and issues of personal privacy."

Michael Wolf became a flashpoint for controversy when his project "A Series of Unfortunate Events" received kudos from the World Press Photo competition--could Wolf's Street View-based approach truly be called photojournalism?

And Jon Rafman, discussing his own Street View work, has cited "hard-boiled American street photography," Depression-era Farm Securities Administration photos, and the work of famous "decisive moment" photojournalist Cartier-Bresson, among other things.

Aaron Hobson, however, seems less concerned with the documentary and journalistic potential of Street View images. Hobson doesn't like his Street View images served raw. He likes to cook them a little.

Indeed, with a bit of finessing in Photoshop--some dodging and burning to emphasize highlights and shadows, some stitching together of separate photos to produce panoramas, some adjustments to color--Hobson ends up with images that one might not guess were culled from Street View at all.

Hobson, who refers to himself as the "Cinemascapist" and whose non-Street View work suggests film stills or fashion shoots, says he discovered the potential of Street View after he was asked to help scout movie locations in Los Angeles.

Google Street View transformed (photos)

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Living in a small town in New York's Adirondack Mountains, he decided to respect his fear of flying, and protect his bank account, by experimenting with a little cyberscouting and traveling the roads of LA and its environs via Street View.

"I soon became addicted to going around using the maps, and the [Street View] project started from there," Hobson told the U.K.'s Daily Mail.

He subsequently spent nine months wandering the world for his "Cinemascapes - Street View Edition" project. As he told ABC News, he'd drop Street View's "little yellow guy" down somewhere and then, "as boring and tedious as it is, just drag that little guy from town to town--continuing North or South for hours and hours" until he stumbled on something that caught his eye.

Hobson limits his virtual wanderings to parts of the world (mainly Europe, he says, but also Brazil and Central America; Hong Kong; and South Africa) that were documented in a high-definition format, a fact that also helps differentiate his work from the pieces produced by other photographers who use Street View.

And, as you'll see, he likes to venture off the beaten path, "in search of enchanted and remote lands" typically reserved for the eyes of their inhabitants alone.