Saturday, March 29, 2014

Doug Rickard - "A New American Picture"


       Doug Rickard twists the ideas about voyeurism and appropriation in ways that cut the edge of contemporary photography and the impact of technology on the arts.  The images he uses from street view have already been taken by cameras. Some of you might have seen the cameras on top of cars that automatically capture digital photographs as they drive.  Every so often street view will be refreshed so the captures Rickard makes are somewhat fleeting and impermanent. Not at the frequency of day to day life, but something less predictable.
       So what happens when you take a virtual tour of your favorite town from your desktop; stopping along the way to take a virtual turn and look... and, O wait take a photograph? This is precisely what Rickard did in this series of photographs.  It is touchy in terms of plagiarism, but not even close to the same plain as Sherrie Levine in her "After" series except for the fact they are both photographs of  photographs. Google street view is open to the public via the internet, and more or less an open invitation for artists to explore. As a photographer, I don't see any real photographic genius behind Rickard's work, but I do see some serious knowledge of photography as well as a very strong eye in terms of selection. His genius lies in the hand picked qualities of his work. Maybe that is photographic genius after all... The body of work feels more like a photo editor setting down and culling thousands while selecting few, much like a curator for an exhibition.
       When I just see one image I don't get incredibly excited, but after seeing two more I become ready for the next. If nothing else I certainly think it is a cool idea. I worked briefly as a Google Trusted Independent Photographer or "TIP" and shot some panoramas of outside and inside businesses; linking them to Google's street view.  I always had to be mindful of peoples faces, license plates and other sensitive material. If it was captured, then I would have to blur it. My coach from San Francisco actually said I would have to blur images if I photographed the inside of a Marijuana shop. I laughed and told her we don't have those in Louisiana. Back to Rickard, the blurring is done for him, he doesn't have to worry about model releases, sharpening, or various other tedious tasks involved with photography. I am a little envious of the simplicity behind his method.  Find images you like, photograph them, print them, sell them. Isn't that what photography is supposed to be about in the first place? Enough of my spill, take a look at's slides and article A Portrait of American Life on Google Street View

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