Greenland Street

I’ve just done a bad thing.

As a photographer, I’ve got a great deal of respect for the work of others. When copyright is held by someone else, and I don’t have a licence to take it or tinker with it, I don’t.

Well, I just did. (And remorse is fairly low on my list of feelings, to be honest.)

I picked up a nice brief today for a shoot in a week or two. As I often do these days, I put the address into Google Street View, just to get a general sense of where the building lies, and what sort of street vistas might be possible.

And there’s this guy. Right in front of the camera.

Shielding his face from the camera, with not one, but both hands.

I kept coming back to the image. Finding it a powerful visual metaphor for the evasion of surveillance; of a small, bowed figure at the front of the frame, seeking not to be identified.

Did he know about the face-blurring they use? Did he trust it? Did he care?

(Yes, I think he cared.)

So I did the bad thing, and scraped the image, un-watermarked it (in a symbolic echo of de/anonymisation?), gave it a little help with colour and tone and composed it as an image that told a story. As I like to do.

You can see it in its full glory by clicking on the preview below. You can download it and use it for stuff if you so choose.

(If I get into trouble, I’ll let you know. If you do, let me know.)

P.S. Thanks to Michael Smethurst for setting the image in the context of this fabulous story from Cory Doctorow, which then made me think more about its symbolism.

P.P.S. You can see the original image here (until it’s replaced by a fresh camera shot, of course).

P.P.P.S. Yes, I am fully aware that I’m quite happy to use Google Street View to help me in my work but also have little frissons about some of its other “features”. But thank you for thinking it.

The Internet is amazing

This isn’t really a blogpost. Just a tiny anecdote about the power of the information at our fingertips, and how, in less than a minute, it can delight and surprise.

I do try and look at photography other than my own from time to time. I spotted this lovely piece just now: street photos of New York from the middle of the last century.

The photo at the end of that particular link, Zito’s bakery, caught my attention for whatever reason. (I think it was the idea of a “Sanitary Bakery” actually shouting that particular branding at the world.)

As you do, I wondered if Zito was still in business today. (And is he still sanitary?) A quick flick over to Google Maps, popping in the address: 259 Bleecker Street, New York, NY.

And there it is.

View Larger Map

Immediately, perfectly, the streetview is located at the precise spot where that shop stands. The tiling around the cellar hatch is there; it looks like it’s been retiled, but it’s the same shop front, without a doubt. Now an Italian restaurant.

But hang on: scroll a little to the left (try it now on the embedded picture–it works) and you’ll see that 259 is the shop next door. 259 Unique Gifts & Souvenirs. Couldn’t be clearer.

So at some point, did Zito’s stop being 259, and the numbering get changed? Why?

A surprise, a delight, and a little mystery, all in a minute, all far away in Bleecker St, as viewed from this sofa deep beneath the West End of London. I like that.

(And now I have a Simon & Garfunkel earworm, of course.)