World of Details


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World of Details, the second book from Berlin-based Russian photographer Viktoria Binschtok (b. 1972), draws from the rich world of photography found from Google Street View, yet takes an unexpected reality-based twist. While several other artists (e.g. Michael Wolf, Doug Rickard, Jon Rafman, etc.) have already used this media prominently in their recent projects, Binschtok separates herself from the crowd by pulling herself away from the Google 9-eyes images on her computer, and going instead directly to the source: the streets of Manhattan.

Binschtok's work presented here seeks out a way to counter Google's uniform representation of the world with her own reality. Selecting images from the Street View image matrix, she then goes to the location in person and takes a photo herself. As a result, every picture in the book is logically linked to another, creating diptychs of a sort, even though the two geographically identical pictures are never printed side by side.

The images chosen by Binschtok from Google's Manhattan Street View are far from remarkable: ordinary streetscapes, always with anonymised individuals, blurry-faced pedestrians suspiciously eyeing the Google car. Moreover, the reinterpretation of the Street View photos as washed out black and white ink-jet scans tones down any iconic qualities left in the pictures. The scenes gain interest, however, through Binschtok's corresponding 'after-images', taken in colour with an analogue medium-format camera in exactly the same location. Yet, beyond relying on merely a separate medium to present differences in the images, she focuses her camera on tiny details she finds in the Street View images and lets them take centre stage: brush strokes on walls, doors, shop windows, stacks of tyres. Summed up, objects of Street View's background become Binschtok's foreground. Approaching the world through its details isn't a new phenomenon in photography, but Bintschtok doesn't use the customary off-handed way so popular with contemporary photographers.

The most captivating diptychs are those woven together only loosely, with one image completing another piece of the puzzle. In one case, Google's image of a garage door is followed up by Binschtok's photograph of the garage's interior. In another pairing, the window of a battery shop half-covered blocked by a blotchy painting of a car is paired with the window shot again in colour - though, the second image offers us the inside view. This is the most iconic diptych in the book and its virtually cinematic countershot, showing stacks of paper and objects haphazardly sat before a smudged window, epitomizes the thought-provoking approach behind Binschtok's project. Thus, World of Detail is not only a strategy to doubt the verisimilitude of mechanically collected imagery, but also a fruitful dialogue between different media techniques. A book way too clever for just one viewing.

World of Details is available for sale from Distanz.