I started writing this thinking I that I would have something critical to say about Google’s Streetview. However, once I got started and my thoughts fell into some sort of order it became clear that even though the world through Streetview is entirely pervasive and inescapable and has transformed our perceptions of what is familiar and unknown, it is not the creative bogey man I thought it might be.
First off I should acknowledge that I use Streetview extensively for work and find it an invaluable tool but nevertheless I felt that my own efforts to shoot stitched panoramas were rendered somehow rather pointless given that Streetview has revealed every corner of the world in 360 degree glory (with very few exceptions) at the click of a mouse. My thoughts were inspired by a panorama project that I started a couple of years ago and that is ongoing.
I started (along with millions of others) to shoot 360/180 panoramas in the early naughties. My first efforts were predominately interior views of public buildings and considering the ropey software that was available at the time, they looked pretty good. This is a view of the Cloisters of Canterbury Cathedral done in 2004.
More recently, I embarked on a long-term project of landscapes of London using stitched techniques. (The recently posted images of the QEII Bridge are part of this endeavour). There is no part of London (or anywhere else for that matter) that is not covered in 360deg by Streetview. As a result 360/180 views are commonplace and do not have the intrigue that they once may have had… so how can one work with stitched panoramas in a way that retains a degree of intrigue and uniqueness?
Looking back over the views produced since the London project began, (around 25 or so) I now realise that by shooting at dusk and/or night and by positioning myself in slightly more unusual places I have achieved images that are to a degree different and unique.
At it’s core all photography is about selection and timing. (Perhaps I should qualify that by saying “straight photography using a camera”!) In a sense 360/180 images negate the first of these in that there is no selection other that where you position the camera but that in itself is a form of selection. And timing is simply a matter of when you take the image so on both counts a 360/180 image scores. By using a combination of unusual vantage points and working in non-daylight or semi daylight hours one can, at least to a degree produce images that are at once similar but different to Streetview and that have their own integrity. In addition I rarely produce full 360/180 images and nearly always crop in to the image.
That said, even though they are quite fun things to make, nothing beats a great single image!
This one was shot in 1989 with my battered Nikon FM2 (and as an aside, clearly demonstrates the difference between film and digitally originated images but maybe that is a subject for a separate post).