These Google Street View snapshots reveal the understated beauty of the roadside

Your summer travel plans may have been cancelled, but you can still indulge your adventurous side by virtually hitchhiking from the Czech Republic to Mongolia with photographer Kira Gyngazova.

29 June 2020

It has been more than three months since lockdown measures appeared around the world, transforming our existence into more mundane — and more extraordinary — than ever before. Deprived of the structures of our routine, the normal appears mysterious. It also inspired Kira Gyngazova, a traveling artist and documentary photographer spending lockdown in Istanbul, to take walks via Google Street View as a quixotic quest for a reality so suddenly lost.

“The presence of the whole world on the internet is in itself insane, but the way it is represented is even more bizarre: everything is frozen and still, as a virtual exhibition of life where life itself becomes a performance,” says Gyngazova. After spending the last three years living between Berlin, Bangkok, and Reims, Gyngazova trained her observational skills as an outsider, and now strives to put the immigrant feeling of non-belonging at the heart of her artistic practice.

To cope with isolation, Gyngazova turned to Google Street View. And, although online escapism could not make up for the thrill of real-life travel, this virtual alternative offered a new kind of clandestine freedom. Empty streets, broken cars, wild nature, abandoned houses, stray dogs, and strangers caught up in conversations, appear both alien and serene. All are unaware of the photographer’s gaze on the other side of the screen.

Magnetic and unassuming, Gyngazov’s shots take between Piatra Neamț in Romania, the Bulgarian seaside, Balkan villages, and remote corners of rural Kyrgyzstan. “I wanted to convey the mystery of normality,” Gyngazova explains. “Google Street View was conceived as a neutral observational machine, but as an artist, I wanted to give it a second life and reframe reality as a form of conceptual painting.”

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