The digital ghosts of Street View

In pasting up life-size images of people found on Google Street View in the same locations they were originally taken, artist Paolo Cirio’s Street Ghosts offers an interesting take on the notion of publicly displayed but privately-held data

Cheshire Street, London: the image of a man as displayed on Street View, on the right, is pasted up at the same location, on left. Street View, here

In pasting up life-size images of people found on Google Street View in the same locations they were originally taken, artist Paolo Cirio’s Street Ghosts offers an interesting take on the notion of publicly displayed but privately-held data…

214 Lafayette Street, New York. Street View from 2009, here

Cirio’s practice has involved browsing notable places for street art on Street View in order to find, he says, “the most visible people on spooky buildings with walls available for art interventions”. Having found a suitable subject, Cirio then creates a colour poster of the figure from the screengrab, and pastes it up in the same location as the original image as taken by one of Google’s camera cars.

“As the publicly accessible pictures are of individuals taken without their permission, I reversed the act,” Cirio explains on “I took the pictures of individuals without Google’s permission and posted them on public walls. In doing so, I highlight the viability of this sort of medium as an artistic material ready to comment and shake our society.”

Ebor Street, London. Street View from 2008, here

Cirio chooses to focus on geographical areas where street art is prevalent as these sites reframe illegal activity as public art – just as Google’s disseminating of an individual’s image online, without their permission, is seemingly lawful. (As the image above shows, Google’s facial blurring algorithms do not always seem to work.)

“The obscure figures fixed to the walls are the murky intersection of two overlain worlds,” Cirio continues on his site. “The real world of things and people, from which these images were originally captured, and the virtual afterlife of data and copyrights, from which the images were retaken.”

Since its launch in 2007, Street View has proved to be a rich source for artists and photographers – see the work of Michael Wolf, Jon Rafman and Doug Rickard – both for the richness of its frequently bizarre imagery, and its existence as a focal point for issues concerning the crossover of the public and private realm.

Cirio explains his artistic intentions in more detail at, with more examples from Berlin, London and New York at his page. Cirio’s website is Via Nick Asbury on @asburyandasbury.

Dircksenstraße / Rochstraße, Berlin. Street View from 2008, here



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  • Gavin

    EXCELLENT idea. Love this

  • Haha, might have to go and look for some of these. Clever idea.

  • I’m sorry, but this is just plain stupid. This is the lowest form of “street art”, which is itself pretty low. Blowing up a pixelated photo and pasting it life-size? For what? And it’s not even in the same location, it’s up against the wall. They should have at least created a free-standing cardboard cutout so it casts a shadow.

  • Ben

    @Prescott Perez-Fox

    You’re right. Street Art is definitely lacking some detailed shadow work. F#cking hell Banksy. Sort it out son!

  • Isn’t that Damien Bellon when he worked at Mother?

  • Jeri Summers

    Since when is vandalism acceptable as art? Unless the property owner has given permission to deface their property, scribbling or pasting things on a wall is still a crime and in most cases, ugly. Beauty and art are subjective, yes, but tagging is still essentially equivilent to dogs urinating on fence posts, marking what doesn’t belong to them!

  • Felipe

    You usually post great stuff. On this one, I’m not sure. However, if you don’t make a mistake every now and then you’d be playing too safe, right? Thanks for keeping us posted.

  • A very interesting post on the street photo, thanks for the info.

  • This is pretty cool stuff.. web imitates life.. which then imitates web in turn