More bodies (and other strange sights) on Brazil's Street View

Tumblr asks Brazilians to send in their most interesting screen grabs from the first week of Google Street View images of the country. The responses reveal more bodies, as well as what might be an assault, and a statue with its face blurred.

Chris Matyszczyk
2 min read

When Google Street View launched in Brazil last week, it seemed as if it revealed so much about life in one of the world's most vibrant and fastest-growing countries.

Images of four dead bodies, in Rio and Belo Horizonte, were, for some, stunning and, for others, sadly normal.

A Tumblr feed called Street Viu was set up so Brazilians could offer their most interesting images from the new service. In just a few days this feed has offered quite a fascinating look at what the Google cameras captured.

Tumblr contributors have sent in shots of more bodies, lying in alleyways or on sidewalks.

Though Google has worked hard to erase these images as soon as it is alerted and has asked the public to use the Street View tools to flag difficult sights, one particularly disturbing image, which, at the time of writing, is still up, shows a man using a public telephone while a body lies beneath him, totally ignored. It is not clear if it is a dead body or merely someone who is passed out, but it is extremely jarring.

What is going on here? Screenshot: Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

When Street View was released in other countries, one heard of the occasional Brit vomiting in the street, and the occasional drunken Australian sleeping on the curb. But the Brazilian experience seems to suggest that Street View isn't merely a useful encyclopedia of street images, but a snapshot of a society.

Brazilian Tumblr posters have offered what, to them, depicts some of the more interesting aspects of today's Brazil. This image from Sao Paolo, for example, might depict an altercation, with two men against one, and a passerby looking on.

Yet as if to counterbalance the dark and the sad, some posters contributed images that they just found funny. And some posters took delight in the images of Street View cars capturing other Street View cars (or themselves), as if nothing can possibly evade Google's eyes.

Perhaps my favorite, though, is this image of a large statue with a proportionately small man walking beneath it. Google's face-blurring technology has decided to blur the face of the statue, while the man's face, at least to my eyes, seems far more clear.

As Street View is now on seven continents (welcome, Antarctica), one wonders what photographic exhibitions will be offered by those who choose to pore over every frame, seeking to find symbols of a nation and a time.

It will be interesting to see how many more dramatic, disturbing, or amusing images will be unearthed by Brazil's Tumblr contributors in the weeks ahead.