The artist Jon Rafman is an alchemist. His best-known project takes the dumb, unblinking eye of Google Streetviews and turns it into an art medium. Combing through thousands upon thousands of images, he collects ones that feel like straight-up photography--images that suggest a hidden story; capture a fleeting, sweet moment; or simply document a beautiful landscape.

His collections first appeared as part of a long essay on the blog Art Fag City, titled "The Nine Eyes of Street Views." But since then, Rafman's been busy: He's preparing the images for huge prints that will be displayed in an upcoming art exhibition, and he's also about to run a second printing of his book, 16 Google Street Views (the first printing disappeared almost immediately after it was announced). In advance of that, he generously provided Fast Company with a peek at his collection--many of which haven't been published before. At least not on Google Street Views, anyway.

Some of Rafman's selections have the pitch-perfect composition of a dedicated pro...
...and other times, they have the frightening look of war reportage. Here, people run down a flooded highway in Australia. And yet, like a real-life war photographer, Google Street Views doesn't slow down to offer aid. It just keeps shooting.
An overturned semi, looking like a dying animal under a bleak sky. Rafman likens the unblinking eyes of Street Views to an "indifferent universe" that doesn't much care about the human's inside it...
...but everyday life creeps in, nonetheless. Street vignettes are plentiful. Some verge on the hokey--you'd think they were rigged for atmosphere, if it wasn't for the fact that they've been captured on Street Views...
...and some can be a tad bit scary. Try not to run into this guy after dark, mm-kay?
Rafman points out that it can be almost impossible not to see some kind of critique of the modern world in some of the pictures.
This one looks like a washed out postcard from an American fairy tale...
...while this one looks like a postcard from another America altogether.
The seeming intimacy of the pictures can be shocking--and it can be hard to believe that they were captured on the fly, with no intent at making art.
The seeming intimacy of the pictures can be shocking--and it can be hard to believe that they were captured on the fly, with no intent at making art.
The seeming intimacy of the pictures can be shocking--and it can be hard to believe that they were captured on the fly, with no intent at making art.
This one could almost be a Walker Evans portrait of a wanderer fleeing the Dust Bowl--except for the blurred out face, as required by Google Street Views.
Google Street Views, via Rafman, even does landscape photography. Here, hikers walk up a snowy hill.
Ah yes, the indefatigable Rod Stewart Fan Club. "Man, Every Picture Tells a Story was the best! The best!" "Yup." "I mean, Never a Dull Moment is awesome too, but..." "Yup." And so it's been going, everyday since the early 1970's.
Knowing that the events are all transpiring in broad daylight, you'd assume that no matter how strange the situation seems, the people in the pictures turn out to be alright...
...and sometimes, you're not so sure because a picture defies explanation. Will someone take care of that freakin' kid?! Or is he just throwing the best temper tantrum ever?
The end.