Artist Conquers Wikipedia, One Image at a Time


From December 2010 to January 2011, Brooklyn-based artist David Horvitz drove up the West Coast from Mexico to Oregon, stopping to take pictures of himself staring off into various vistas as a part of his latest project, Public Access. Horvitz took each of his images — a collection of pensively photobombed beaches, bridges, lighthouses, and creeks — and uploaded them to their proper Wikipedia pages, adding to and sometimes replacing the images already there.

Unsurprisingly, the geek overlords at Wikipedia were more than a little bit confused by the images of the mystery man that were sprouting up on the Wikipedia pages for most West Coast landmarks. After the jump, check out some of Horvitz’s photos juxtaposed with some of our favorite publicly documented Wikipedia editor conversations debating whether the images should stay or go. Who knew so many of them moonlighted as art critics!

Pelican Beach

“Without intending to be insulting to the uploader, File:26 pelican.JPG is one of a series of not very good images of a man on a beach and I would not use it to illustrate any subject.” — Delicious carbuncle (talk) 01:51, 20 January 2011 (UTC)

Marin Headlands

“removing poorly placed, under-exposed image” (undo) — Eeekster (talk | contribs) 05:32, 20 January 2011 (13,457 bytes)

Silver Strand State Beach

“Crap photo of dubious sourcing.” (TW)) (undo) — Ryulong (talk | contribs) 03:22, 23 January 2011 (12,166 bytes)

Golden Gate Recreation Area

“another sockpuppet inserting poor images” (undo) — Eeekster (talk | contribs) 05:39, 20 January 2011 (25,333 bytes)

California’s Lost Coast

“To me, the biggest issue is the saturation-bombing of one person’s appearance in a large number of articles. The middling quality of the images is also an issue, but it is a much smaller one […] I’ve been replacing these with cropped versions where it’s possible to crop them and still have a useful image, and removing the others, because we don’t need to be supporting this .. .whatever it is. If anyone legitimately prefers the images with the one guy in them, feel free to revert me, but I don’t feel a need to have this guy in every Southern California article.” — Gavia immer (talk) 02:53, 20 January 2011 (UTC)

Border Field State Park

“Actually, it can be very good to have a person in these kinds of images, in order to show the scale of the features. In these cases, I don’t think we should care who that person is.” — OrangeDog 00:13, 16 January 2011 (UTC)

El Segundo

“It isn’t necessarily in bad faith […] It should be purely a matter of whether the photo is informative or if the figure detracts from it, and if you can’t tell from a single photo whether it’s incidental or vanity, then unless you’re going to put more than one in the same article it probably doesn’t matter.” — postdlf (talk) 03:26, 16 January 2011 (UTC)

Usal Creek

“Suggest we keep an eye out for any instances of the image being added; maybe someone can put something into an edit filter? The key question is whether this chap is out to help the encyclopaedia; I don’t think he is: he’s here to display his artwork to as many people as possible.” — Chase me ladies, I’m the Cavalry (talk) 22:13, 22 January 2011 (UTC)

Most of the images have been removed from the live Wikipedia and Wikimedia Commons pages, but you can download the artist-distributed PDF with all of the Public Access photos and archived Wikipedia editor comments here.