Aaron Hobson is an artist, and one of his favorite sources of inspiration is Google. More specifically, Google Maps Street View.
Google regularly updates its Street View imagery, often with some very impressive shots. For example, in recent months, we’ve seen them expand coverage of Hawaii, California state parks, the Kennedy Space Center, Antarctica, the Amazon, a recovering New Orleans, Brazil and Mexico.
But chances are, there is a ton of gorgeous imagery sitting on Google that you’ve never stumbled across. Hobson, through his art, aims to introduce you to a bit more of it. He spends time putting together pieces of Google’s imagery to come up with some pretty breathtaking pictures. He tells WebProNews a bit about the process for coming up with artwork like these:
La Linea de la Concepcion, Spain
Sanday Island, Scotland
Prague, Czech Republic
And there are plenty more where those came from…
“It all begins with a location,” Hobson tells WebProNews. “I typically start with an isolated tip of a country or a remote outback. From these points I move around for hundreds of miles in search of an image or location that I might have taken myself and that mimics my signature style of somewhat dark and emotive panoramics.”
“It is important to note that I only venture into areas where Google has used their highest resolution cameras,” he says. “These images are extremely sharp and can be reproduced at fairly large sizes before heavy pixelation ruins the image.”
“I will then take multiple screen captures to area that I want to focus on and begin to perform my own aesthetic ‘lick’ to the images with a combination of dodging and burning of shadows and highlights (i.e. exaggerating or emphasizing the highlights and shadowed areas of an image),” he explains. “That process in combination with slight color hue adjustments results in images very similar to my portfolio of cinemascapes.”
“To put this in perspective, since 2007 when Google began the street view project, their team has taken tens of millions of images and they’ve driven more than 5 million unique miles of road,” says Hobson. “I have only discovered a very minor amount of locations even after traveling thousands of miles. I am also more interested in the remote locations that most visitors to street view will never discover. Small isolated villages in rural Brazil or empty countrysides in central France to name a few examples.”
“It is my intention with these images to show these places that typically are only seen by the locals that inhabit these locations,” he says. “I am also repurposing the intentions of street view from a simple automated map feature to unveil the artistry and beauty that can be found by an automated and aesthetically neutered machine. The world is a wild and wonderful place and if time is taken to explore it, you can discover immense beauty and charm in the most unexpected places.”
When asked if Google is ok with him using its imagery and selling art based upon it, Hobson tells us, he is repurposing an underlying image (from Google) that’s “intent was not for a final product of artistry.”
“I am not the first or the last artist and/or photographer to use Google as an inspiration or an artist resource,” he says. “I believe Google employees have actually collected some of the street view imagery recently exhibited at MoMA [Museum of Modern Art] in NYC last year. I think there are many more untapped resources for artist[s] in Google Street View, and we will see much more art resulting from it for many years to come.”
Hobson has used his talents to put together imagery from Japan’s earthquake/tsunami devastation to sell, and help raise money for the area.
“I have friends that will occasionally send me links to articles they find in regards to any new Street View regions that have been opened up to viewing,” he tells us, explaining how this project came about. “I can’t remember who, but someone told me that the regions of Japan that were affected by the 2011 earthquake/tsunami have been photographed by Google’s team and were available online. I remember being moved by the images and video I had seen following the aftermath of the devastation and how it had affected me personally seeing those images. I’m not sure what resonates so much about that region more than Haiti, India, or even New Orleans, but for some reason it did.”
“I then began to explore several hundred miles of coastline and inland areas in Northern Japan,” says Hobson. “The destruction and debris was widespread and intense on a level I have never seen before. What also made an impact on me was the similarity to the Tohoku region and that of the Adirondack region where I reside. Small villages divided by majestic mountain ranges and many towns far removed from large modern cities. I was drawn to imagery that showed the unique beauty of the region juxtaposed with scale of the destruction.”
“I had previously donated a print to a fundraising auction the previous year, but after visiting these areas on street view, I knew I had to do more this time,” he continues. “I wouldn’t be happy with simply selling more art to give the profits to a charity like the Red Cross. I wanted to do more and I wanted it to be hands-on.”
“I discovered the non-profit group It’s Not Just Mud (INJM) who allows volunteers to come stay with them and help in multiple facets from rebuilding homes and removing debris to organizing village festivals and handing out items to locals in need,” says Hobson. “Right away I knew this was something I wanted to do. So I gathered 18 images from the region and have made very affordable prints to help raise funds for any requisite travel from NYC to Japan and all monies over that amount will go directly to assist INJM’s mission.”
Here’s one of the images:
“Even if visitors to my site don’t purchase a print, it is still my goal to help raise awareness on how much work still remains to be done,” he concludes.
You can see more from this specific project here.