The Net, Google Street View and Google Earth offer the photographic double of our planet that the nineteenth century could only dream of. They are breathing new life into the landscape genre and point to a necessary rethinking of the concept itself.

“With this simple device you can go on a hike in your iving room and be transporte to a Swiss glacier, romantic highland wilds or the pleasant banks of the Rhine and the Elbe, or delight in the sight of the architectural wonders of the world.” This 1858 Germand advertisement for a stereoscope (1) is representative of the fantasy, born with photography, of the constituion of a replica of the planet that one could consult at home. Today the Web, Google Earth (since 2005) and Google Street View (since 2007) seem to have made that a reality. So much so, perhaps, that they have made landscape photograpy obsolete, at least insofar as it has been practiced since the medimum was invented.

Model images
This is what Caroline Delieutraz set out to demonstrate with her Deux Visions, a series of stereoscopic-like diptychs juxtaposing shots from La France de Raymond Depardon (2010) and screen grabs of Google Street View images of the same places that he photographed. Both sets of images were made around the same time and following similar operating procedures. In 2004, Depardon set out on a very long drive to the four corners of France, stopping from time to time to take pictures without getting out of his camper. In 2008, Google Cars equippped with multi-lens cameras began crisscrossing France, recording all of the country’s streets within a few years. Depardon’s photos represent his choices, of course, the opposite of Google’s systematic approach, yet the pictures he took with is view camera bear a startlingly close resemblance to those automated and pre-set snapshots.

Delieutraz’s series signals a change in era, or even condition–now called the post-photographic conditions. (2) Characterized by a surperabondance of images and theri dematerialization (or “fluidity,” if we want to follow André Gunthert in foregrounding their power of circulations and distribution), (3) and their accessibility on networks, this new condition encourages appropriationist practices that require neither ownership of a camera nor leaving home. These practices are of two kinds. Some artists deal in images emptied of their meaning. Others, on the contrary, make use of direct access to new sources. Together, they have made landscape photography the most revitalized genre in recent years.

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Plublished in Art Press number 440, january 2017.

(1) A device that makes it possible to see images in three dimensions by means of the juxtaposition of two photographs taken from two slightly different viewpoints. This advertisement is cited by Bernd Stiegler in Images de la photographie, Hermann, 2016, pp. 47-48.
(2) Joan Fontcuberta (editor), La Condition post-photographique. Le Mois de la photo à Montréal/Kerber Verlag, 2015.
(3) André Gunthert, L’Image partagée. La photographie numérique, Textuel, 2015.