Things I have seen on Google Street View

My window to the world is a Dell P2411H digital display. Google, via its many Street View cars, has photographed millions of miles of roadways and made those panoramic images easily available online. I look at Google Street View, or GSV, every day. I take screenshots of things that interest me and post them on a Tumblr page. Over the past seven years I have posted nearly three thousand screenshots. Some of the things I see are fascinating but do not translate well visually, even in a cropped screenshot. Sometimes I wonder about the people I see photographed by the Street View cameras. Sometimes I think about them long after I have forgotten where on the map they exist. I have favorite places that I return to, over and over.

Hong Kong

A boy, no more than 10 years old, walking by himself, his face glued to his Nintendo DS.



A restaurant called C’VICHE, whose manager I imagine ordering supplies from Sysco or some other giant purveyor of basic foodstuffs elsewhere in Dallas Fort Worth Metroplex and having to specify, insistently over the phone, “See, apostrophe, vee, eye, see, aitch, eee. Suh-vee-chay. No first e, though. No, I mean, there is an e, but it’s at the end. No, not two e’s though…Where the first e should be is an apostrophe. . . Like suh-vichy . . . . Fuck it. Kuh-vitch. Just call us kuh-vitch. Cavitch here.”



Looking at crowds of people on the streets of Dhaka, I wonder does anyone in the United States know the names of any of these people? Can any non-Bangladeshi name another Bangladeshi at all? All those Chandnis and Meghs and Shamims and Sumons and their lives are totally invisible to me. What is their sense of their own place in the world’s history? What do they aspire to do in their lives? This image of them through the eyes of the Google Street View lens is my only view of them at all. And again I look at crowds on the streets of Lima and wonder at the masses of unknown lives and names that will never gain prominence outside of their own town, their own neighborhood or street perhaps. Hector Rodriguez? Jaime Saltillo? Maria Jimenez? Who are they? And this has always been the history of the world. Masses of unknowns. How much I will never know. Would I even want to know? Have I made a conscious choice to not know?



The trees are low and the sun is relentless. Near the border of Zimbabwe is a border post with a sign stating “Let us keep our border clean”–as if Zimbabwe insists on officially littering and Botswana is reduced to begging: “please, let us just keep this area clean.” But I’m sure it’s just a nuance of their colonial English that means “help us” keep the border clean. Unless it’s some sort of racial cleansing statement. The border area itself looks as clean and well-kept as any in the US-Mexico border areas I’ve seen. There are some tin shacks just West of the border crossing that look like they serve as a de facto market and food court.

Arvin, California

A picnic in a park. Ten hispanic men in cowboy hats crowded around a single picnic table. An elderly white man on a mountain bike cautiously approaches them from the sidewalk.


Lower Hutt, Wellington, New Zealand

A store called Krazzy 4 Bollywood. I assume the second z is because they are truly crazy, I mean, CRAZY for Bollywood. Not even replacing the C with a K can explain how crazy they are about Bollywood movies. But then I Google it learn there is a Bollywood comedy called “Krazzy 4” and thus the store’s name operates as a clever pun as well as a signal to those in the know.


Rural France

A family walking hand-in-hand, each parent holding a child’s hand and a picnic basket, bypassing a restaurant, headed toward a pasture.