how Google Maps is opening a window to the past

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Excuse me, but I don’t know what your name is. Nor where do you live. Nor what do you do. No idea what your hobbies are or where you’ll be traveling this summer. What I do have clear is that there is a good chance that you, me and hundreds of thousands of other people share the same photo album, a huge catalog in which we mix with houses, streets, cars and pets. Some will remain the same, as if they had been photographed the day before yesterday. Others will be pure memory.

The album is called Google Maps.

And if for something outstanding his portraitist, his unmistakable carserigraphed with the colors of the Mountain View company and its remarkable camera well anchored to the ceiling, is due to the skill with which hunt us red-handedwith no room for posing, putting guts or preparing a smile.

Did you just bend over to tie your shoelaces or reach for your keys with your arm up to your elbow in your bag? No matter. By the time you realize the multi-colored car will already be moving away down the street. And so you will stay, portrayed, with a pixelated face, for the years of the yearsuntil a new car comes out again to update the street map and repeat the task.

a window to the past

Even then, your image will remain in the history of Street View, perhaps unrecognizable to those who do not know you; but clearer than an ID photo for family and friends.

Even if it is for a simple matter of probability, what of course cannot be denied to Google is its ability to capture us in our most attached routines, those of day to day.

It’s rare that I catch you in a wedding or suit, tie and fresh from the barbershop, on your way to the company Christmas dinner. It most likely will when you come home with a loaf of bread under your arm or sweating down to your rump after two hours at the gym. An authentic portrait without impostures nor option to replicate that will be preserved in the visual memory of Google.

Even when you are no longer on the other side of the screen.

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At the time it may bother you; but you will hardly find that point of bare spontaneity, that ability to capture your most essential routine, in any of the hundreds, maybe thousands of photos, in which you appear every year between selfies, group portraits and “Intagram photos”.

There you are. And your life. no sweeteners.

a few days ago to Carlos Torres (@carlosaspe) it occurred to him to dive into that tidal wave of memories that is the history of Google Street View on the hunt precisely for everyday images. He centered the shot, of course. He searched in familiar areas. What he found in an image from 2016 moved him so much that made a screenshot and uploaded it to his Twitter account with a message:

— “On Google maps my grandparents are still alive and my mother goes through the shade to bring them food.”

That removed him. And tens of thousands of people who commented or liked his post. Others, not a few, they threw themselves into the same experience and they hunted for souvenirs stolen by the Google Maps car like a paid paparazzi.

And there they were, pixelated, but perfectly recognizable for those who treated and loved them: Grandpa enjoying the spring sun leaning against the facade of the family home; the mother laden with shopping bags on the corner of the square where she used to wait for her husband… Even the dog that until six years ago played daily in the patio of the house.

An authentic album to remember.

I have also found the grandmother that I had to say goodbye to two years ago.

He leans out of one of the windows of his house on a cloudy day in the winter of 2011, with his arms outstretched, while he hangs out the blue covers that my uncles used in the store.

A moment of his routine hunted and dumped on Google… And how many memories it evokes!

Cover image | Google Maps

Excuse me, but I don’t know what your name is. Nor where do you live. Nor what do you do.…

Excuse me, but I don’t know what your name is. Nor where do you live. Nor what do you do.…

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