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The agoraphobic photographer who travels the world via Google Street View

The agoraphobic photographer who travels the world via Google Street View

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Text: Su Fen Tan


Image: Instagram / @streetview.portraits

Jacqui Kenny isn’t just capturing beautiful Street View portraits, she's also facilitating the conversation surrounding mental health

While travelling across borders has become increasingly accessible in today's world, not everyone might have the means to. In Jacqui Kenny's case, it is agoraphobia that stands in her way. Kenny, a New Zealander living in London, has lived with severe anxiety for over 20 years, but it was only in 2009 that she was diagnosed with the condition. Faced with the anxiety disorder which leaves her with an abnormal fear of being trapped or helpless in situations where escape may be difficult, even going to the local supermarket can be a challenge, let alone getting on a plane. 

A couple of years ago, Kenny's condition worsened from the stress of shutting down a decade-old business she co-founded. Not ready to face the world just yet, she found refuge in Google Street View, and set on a unique virtual journey to explore the streets of faraway countries from the comfort of her home. 

 

 

Kenny started an Instagram account, @streetview.portraits, sharing her beautiful captures of remote streets and stark landscapes, and soon garnered a following for her digital travels. Her novel way of coping with her predicament has also allowed her to find a supportive community of people who share similar struggles with mental health and anxiety disorders.

"As I clicked through Google Maps, I left my London home and navigated the streets of faraway countries like Mongolia, Senegal, and Chile. I encountered remote towns and dusty landscapes, vibrant architectural gems, and anonymous people, all frozen in time. The more I travelled, the more I found scenes that appeared to be plucked from a strange and expansive parallel universe. What began as a hobby quickly became a pursuit of the hidden, magical realms of Street View," Kenny wrote in a Google Blog post. "I hope my journey will encourage others not only to open up and talk about their mental health struggles but also to look for creative ways to get through the tough moments."

 

 

See more of Jacqui Kenny a.k.a. the Agoraphobic Traveller's Google Street View adventures on Instagram.

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