Showing Not Telling Using Google Maps/Street View

As I alluded to in the post Showing Not Telling, I have decided to make a post detailing how I make a map-based approach to titling the diptychs for my body of work. One of my concerns with map-based titling was that the project should have something to do with a map in the first place. I feel in retrospect that this isn’t necessarily true. The concept that drives the project doesn’t have to start by drawing a circle on a map for instance in order for the project to be titled this way. Instead the map can be a tool that embellishes the project, by inviting the viewer to delve deeper into the map or coordinates that point to the map. Then if the viewer does decide to explore this avenue of the project, they could find clues to how Deptford looked before the diptychs were taken. The viewer could do this via interactive applications like Google Maps or Google Street View. If the project was viewed 30 years later, the viewer could even visit these locations in Deptford and see how it has changed since.

I also like how coordinates appear when titling an image or diptych. They appear simply as mostly numbers with a letter or degree symbol apparent too. It looks efficient and succinct. The numbers (plus letter and degree symbol) point to something without giving it away. It is a code that the viewer is invited to break down because surely the artist/photographer who titled the photograph/diptych this way must have done so for a reason?

How the viewer breaks down this code is a bit of a problem though. In my eyes it is a lot easier to do this if they are viewing the project on a computer. For example on this blog post I’ve included the coordinates and they can easily be copied into the search bar of Google Maps and the location of where the coordinates will be shown on the map. Even more accessibly, a link has been provided below the corresponding diptych and its coordinates. This link shows a Google Street View image of where the diptych was taken but a year or so back. By clicking on the history button, on most Google Street View images linked it is possible to view other times when Google Street View images were taken at the same locations. This is one of my favourite features of Google Street View I just found out about! In fact it is remarkably similar to my approach with the diptychs.

I began to wonder: what does my project have to offer over/as difference to Google Street View’s more thorough, comprehensive and interactive approach?

Firstly, my project has more aesthetic appeal. The Google Street View images are 360° panoramas that also look up or down. This provides the viewer with an unparalleled amount of information each step of Google Street View’s way but also in my opinion Google Street View doesn’t look particularly appealing. Secondly, my project is more subjective. Whether that is good or bad is another matter. I have selected certain locations to photograph from which show only specific changes which were important to me. Thirdly, through the use of composites, I have created similarity amongst the difference. Google Street View wouldn’t be able to make this play. The use of composites in the way I’ve implemented them could imply a semblance of solidarity or stasis while everything else is changing.

If the viewer was looking at the project in an exhibition or photo book however, the coordinates would be less meaningful. I would suggest there should be some form of supporting information to help the viewer in accepting the invitation to work out the coordinates themselves.

Without further ado, here are the diptychs I’ve shot for Body of Work, along with corresponding coordinates and a link to the Google Street View images (taken between 2017 and 2019). Incidentally, some of the diptychs were taken in places where the Google Street View didn’t have access to and so I had to locate nearby to show a similar view.

51°29'01.8"N 0°01'22.4”W
51°29’01.8″N 0°01’22.4”W

Link to Google Street View:

51º28'42.228N 0º1'36.971W copy
51°28’42.9″N 0°01’37.6”W

Link to Google Street View:

WiP - Diptych of 51º28'55.294"N 0º0'52.564"W
51°28’55.3″N 0°00’53.0”W

Link to Google Street View:

51°28'45.0"N 0°01'22.5”W
51°28’45.0″N 0°01’22.5”W

Link to Google Street View:

51°28'45.6"N 0°01'01.5”W
51°28’45.6″N 0°01’01.5”W

Link to Google Street View:

Horizontal Diptych of Composites in the Same Location
51°28’41.5″N 0°01’15.6”W

Link to Google Street View:

WiP - Diptych of 51º28'30.093"N 0º1'33.957"W
51°28’30.0″N 0°01’34.5”W

Link to Google Street View:

WiP - Diptych of 51º28'37.215"N 0º1'16.219"W
51°28’37.4″N 0°01’16.0”W

Link to Google Street View:

DSC_6123-Edit2-2 copy
51°28’40.9″N 0°01’33.6”W

Link to Google Street View:

51°28'21.9"N 0°01'25.1”W
51°28’21.9″N 0°01’25.1”W

Link to Google Street View:

Overall I am glad I tried using a map-based titling approach. In my eyes it definitely shows without telling and suits the observational tone of my project. It has however, delivered fresh problems into how I eventually present the work. I feel map-based titling looks and works fine digitally on my blog because it retains an interactive element. Anyone curious enough can click on the Google Street View links provided and see a similar viewpoint to those of the corresponding diptychs. If I were to present the diptychs at an exhibition or in a photo book with just coordinates though, the viewer would have to be much more curious to follow the coordinates up.

5 thoughts on “Showing Not Telling Using Google Maps/Street View

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