Rio de Janeiro is often referred to as Cidade Maravilhosa - the marvelous city. A name that seems fitting, as the city's mythical beauty has captured the imagination of people all over the world.
And it is a place I have never visited in person. This series is an attempt to use digital technologies to produce a photographic essay that feels genuine and authentic, just as if I had visited Rio myself. However, all photographs in this series are artifacts extracted from on-demand cloud computing services that were available to me during the second COVID-19 pandemic lockdown in Germany in the winter of 2020/2021. These services include Google Maps, Google Street View, various video streaming providers and social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram, as well as StyleGAN2, an algorithm that allows data-driven unconditional generative image modeling. The majority of portraits in this series are either produced or modified through cloud-based generative face modeling.
By applying a veneer that we are accustomed to through the traditional practice of documentary photography, the images are taken out of their original context and represented as a personal essay. The series might serve as a starting point to investigate the truthfulness and general mechanisms of the photographic essay at the current moment and for what is to come. More than ever there is a growing understanding that documentary photography is a neocolonial practice. By using images from the digital public space that are provided and/or owned by large US-based businesses, this problem reaches new dimensions. This document is a product of its environment and should be treated as such. The sourcing and reappropriation of the material can be seen as ethically questionable, but it is made with the intent to shine a light on what has already become the new normal in image consumption.