A photographic 'Street View' tour of America

By John D. Sutter, CNN

Part of me is surprised no one thought of this before.
Photographer Doug Rickard has created a beautiful collection of images of U.S. cities and towns pulled entirely from Street View -- that project of Google Maps, started in 2007, which lets people "walk" the streets of the world through photographs taken from Google cars, tricycles and snowmobiles.
Called "A New American Picture," Rickard explains the project in the video interview above, which was filmed by a group called Pier 24 Photography.
    The photos are on display through January 16, 2012 at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. You can see more of Rickard's images on MoMA's website.
    It's a powerful collection -- and amazing to think that all of these images were already out there on the Internet, just waiting for someone like Rickard to curate the best of the best.
    "I'm simply shining a point-of-view and a spotlight on specific parts of our country that need to be seen," he says in the video interview. "It's as simple as that."
    In part because the amount of photos and data online is so vast, it's also interesting that Rickard describes the communities he features as hidden and "outside of view."
    More on his efforts from MoMA in New York:
    Doug Rickard (American, born 1968) studied United States history and sociology at the University of California, San Diego, before moving to photography. He has drawn on this background in research for his series A New American Picture, which focuses on places in the United States where unemployment is high and educational opportunities are few.
    On a virtual road trip, Rickard located these sites remotely using the Street View feature of the website Google Maps, which has mapped and photographed every street in the country. Scrutinizing the Google Maps pictures, he composed images on his computer screen, which he then photographed using a digital camera.
    The resulting pictures—digitally manipulated to remove the Google watermark and cropped to a panoramic format—comment on poverty and racial equity in the United States, the bounty of images on the web, and issues of personal privacy.
    UPDATE: As tends to happen when you write phrases like "I can't believe no one has thought of this before," it turns out that someone has! A Twitter user messaged me a link to a Street View photo project, which has an international tone. I'm sure there are others, too. Check it out.