If you've never taken a random walk through Google Street View, the experience can feel like a dream in slow motion.
Panoramas familiar or strange drift by as you click down the street, but like real-world travel, it's the journey and not the destination that matters.
Canadian sculptor, filmmaker, and visual artist Jon Rafman has made a name for himself collecting bizarre, often unsettling views from the petabytes of data in Google Street View, and he recently discussed his work with photography enthusiasts in his hometown of Montreal.
"For me, the Google camera almost symbolizes a modern god, this god that sees everything but doesn't take a moral stance and doesn't act," Rafman told attendees at a workshop of the ongoing Le Mois de la Photo festival, organized under the theme of "Drone: The Automated Image."
"The human gaze sees meaning, sees poetry in the images, sees beauty, and is forced to take a moral stance when they see a person dying on the side of the road or a prostitute working on the streets in the outskirts of Madrid," he said. "That tension was really for me what became the most interesting part of photography."
Rafman was speaking via Skype from Germany, where he's putting on a 3D sculpture exhibition. He explained that it takes him hours and hours looking through Street View to find interesting snapshots.
Photos from his noted series The Nine Eyes of Google Street View were displayed along a commercial street in southwest Montreal. They include desolate country roads, burning vehicles, and animals caught by the camera.
Some of the images were tucked away on the sides of restaurants and shops, and some were prominently displayed at an intersection. But seeing the Google views from around the world on a local thoroughfare made for some ironic scenes.
"This created the perfect circle," Rafman said. "I think the final completion of the circle would be if we could get the Google Street View car to drive down that street and capture the images.
"The project is about the street, it's about humanity, so to be out there on the street is very appropriate."
Check out more of Rafman's Street View images from the Nine Eyes project in the gallery above.