Sacramento photographer Doug Rickard has traveled thousands of miles across America — without leaving his studio. Rickard drives around the country in search of artistic inspiration using Google Street View. What he has brought back from these expeditions is a portrait of the bleak and forgotten places that are often overlooked in the U.S. His work carries on a photographic tradition that stretches back to the Great Depression, when a number of famous photographers (Walker Evans, Dorothea Lang) fanned out across the country to document the plight of the poor.
Street View, which launched in May 2007, is the perfect vehicle for capturing the effects of the recent economic collapse. Google’s goal of providing a street-level vision of the buildings and landscapes represented on a bird’s eye map has resulted in the freezing of countless scenes of economic hardship and devastation, which are isolated and reified in Rickard’s photographs.
Doug Rickard, #26.431997, Belle Glade, Fl (2007), 2010.
While not the only person to make art using online tools — several artists even use Street View — Rickard’s work “speaks to American dynamics both present and past that are separate from technology (socio-economics, racial divide, class divide, historical events, etc.) and then technology adds layers to this work that are in themselves manifold (privacy, surveillance, participation or lack of participation in the technology transformations of our culture, etc. etc).”
View KQED’s video profile of Doug Rickard: