"Traveling" By Google Street View Is The Best

Have you ever gone armchair traveling (or desktop traveling, as the case may be) by opening up Google Street View and picking a random place to visit? It's loads of fun — but artist Ariel Vocalino's “The World Wide We” project takes traveling via Street View to a whole new level. The resulting illustrations are absolutely beautiful and a powerful reminder that we're all in this — by which I mean life aboard the spaceship we call Earth — together.

A frequent physical traveler, Buenos Aires-based Vocalino has long made a habit of turning the people he meets abroad into beautiful works of art. But he doesn't just sketch these global citizens, nor does he simply photograph them. According to his artist's statement on the World Wide We website, he takes photographs of people, then draws pictures of those same people based on the photographs he shot. He's also previously illustrated people he spotted walking along Cabildo Avenue in Buenos Aires — people, as he put it “that attracted no one's attention, anonymous beings” — and made them the “heroes” of a series he called Nadies, which translates in English to No Ones. Technically "nadies" is something of an invented word; said Vocalino, "I had to create this word to pluralize the pronoun 'no one.'”

After wonder idly one morning over a cup of coffee exactly where he would go if he could travel right at that very moment, Vocalino did what a lot of folks dealing with a case of wanderlust do: He opened Google Street View and started exploring. He chose Lexington Avenue in New York as his location — a place he had visited as a teenager — and began digitally “walking” around. Writes Vocalino:

I started to take a walk, and all of a sudden I realized that as I walked I followed people, exactly the same way I did when I was there, but this time through Street View, going forward and backwards with the camera, zooming in, correcting the framing and freezing it so that I could draw them … I stopped in some corners where the sun was filtering between the buildings, creating amazing shadows. And discovering people that attracted me by their looks (that is, the people I seek in order to photograph and draw afterwards).

After doing this sort of Street View traveling a few times, he set himself a challenge: To travel around the world solely through Google Street View, drawing the people he “meets” along the way. The resulting illustrations, which he posts on both Tumblr and Instagram, are simple, yet evocative; most intriguingly, they rarely, if ever, feature faces. I suspect the lack of faces is due at least partially to the limitations of Google Street View (let's face it: the image resolution isn't always crystal clear) — but at the same time, I would argue that the omission actually adds something new to the whole thing. Not having distinct faces means the figures depicted could be anyone. Not only does this allow us to fill in the blanks for ourselves, but more over, it even lets us put ourselves in those shoes, imagining what it might be like to walk around New Zealand, or Japan, or Madagascar, or wherever. As different as we all are, we're all still connected by this great, blue planet of ours — and that's pretty cool.

You can take a look at where Vocalino has “been” over on the “Map” page of the World Wide We Tumblr; and don't forget to check out the whole project on Tumblr and Instagram while you're at it.

Images: Fotolia; arielvocalino/Instagram (6)