The Agoraphobic Traveller – The world between Google Street View and a genius escape

A horse in Kyrgyzstan.
by Beatrice Bruni

Diversion, distraction, imagination, changes in fashion, food, love and landscape. We need them like the air we breathe.
Bruce Chatwin

What is travelling? What is meant by travel? Is the term univocal or does it give back to the mind and body a jumble of references on which it is sweet to dwell? The idea of ​​travel automatically leads to a set of thoughts, memories, emotions and desires. Travel is liberating, fun and necessary. So tied to our spaces, to the old voices of the house and its tutelary deities, as much we desire freedom, exploration and knowledge. We love our holidays and adventure.

Since photography was born and developed, one of the first genres that has emerged was travel photography. Then the thirst for knowledge pushed human beings to explore new places and bring back photographs to document, learn, study; this way, monuments, populations, arts and cultures were brought to light. The world was becoming more and more fascinating.

Saint-Louis, Senegal.

From that moment on, the production of images of the world has never stopped. Today, however, it is no longer necessary to be there, in a precise and defined space, to be able to create views.

Agoraphobia (from the Greek αγορά: square and φοβία: fear, etymologically “fear of the square”) is the feeling of fear or serious discomfort that a subject feels when he finds himself in unfamiliar environments or in large open or crowded spaces, fearing not to be able to control the situation. This leads them to feel the need for an immediate escape route to a place they consider safer. 

Those suffering from agoraphobia cannot leave the house to go to the supermarket around the corner.

London artist Jacqui Kenny has been suffering from agoraphobia for more than ten years; this caused her panic attacks, anxiety, the inability to leave the comfort zone of her home in the most difficult moments. In 2016 Jacqui, almost by chance while carrying out a search on Google Street View, found herself reproducing the experience of travel and reaching the most remote places in the world simply sitting at her desk. It was quite natural for her to document her journey and transform her story into a wonderful escape route.

Cactus in Mesa, Arizona, United States.

Kenny has drawn great creative strength from her condition. She has collected a great number of images captured by Google Street View and opened a successful Instagram account, @streetview.portraits, which reads in bio: Agoraphobic Traveler. Agoraphobia and anxiety limit my ability to travel, so I’ve found another way to see the world.

Another way to see the world, indeed. The artist searches for, chooses and captures the image. From Mongolia, one of Kenny’s favorite countries, to Chile, from the United States to Senegal.

The project features extremely coherent editing, a curious gaze and a distinctive language. Human presence is reduced to a minimum and assigned to often boundless spaces. Interesting is the attention given to animals, essential urban geometries, vibrant colors.

Church in Arica y Parinacota Region, Chile.

The lack of control painfully experienced in life is compensated and overturned by her strong ability to control the scene, the framing, the angle offered to the observer. The preference for strong light (at noon and often at the equator) and for the exclusion of large urban agglomerations, gives us a narrative of solitary and isolated places, a metaphor of her situation of isolation, loneliness, hope, control, acceptance.

After all, it is very comforting to know that, even in the darkest moments, humans can be able to make sense of their existence.

Street dog chasing a car, Arequipa, Peru.

In still uncertain times of pandemic, albeit with cautious and due differences, perhaps it is possible to understand what it means to be confined at home, sitting on the sofa, not knowing, for the first time in a lifetime, when we’ll be able to get on a plane again. The creative force of the human mind can overcome this obstacle, and re-invent itself, change its perspective, waiting for better times. Meanwhile, here is an invitation to travel, to embrace emotion, fun, and enchantment.

For a limited period of time, Google has given the artist permission to sell limited edition prints, the proceeds of which will go to the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation, a non-profit organization that deals with the prevention, the cure and treatment of mental illnesses. All information on the site:


All images: © Jacqui Kenny via Google Street View


March 29, 2021

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