© Thomas Hawranke
© Thomas Hawranke
Installation shots of Lost Worlds at Photo Festival Schiedam 2017, http://www.fotofestivalschiedam.nl/exhibition/lost-worlds/
Lost Worlds in Raw View #8, http://www.rawview.org/product/raw-view-8/
Lost Worlds is a visual exploration for what we perceive as nature, or natural.
The environments in which I make these images are the virtual landscapes of videogames. Where these landscapes used to be cardboard backdrops, they have become seemingly unlimited worlds. Designed to seduce the player to go explore pristine landscapes, they contain lush rainforests, icy mountain ranges, rushing waterfalls and barren deserts. Well-programmed weather systems provide rain, sunshine or snow and day and night cycles add to the ‘realness’ of the experience. To achieve a sublime-as-possible experience, the designs of these landscapes borrow heavily from Romantic interpretations of nature by painters as Caspar David Friedrich and Albert Bierstadt.
more info: http://www.gamescenes.org/2017/02/game-art-robert-wetzers-lost-worlds-2013-ongoing.html
Down and Out in Los Santos is series of photographs that are created by exploiting a smartphone camera feature within the video game Grand Theft Auto V. Players of GTAV can put away the guns and knives, and instead take photos within the game environment. This operates in basically the same way as ‘real’ cameras do. I walk around a three-dimensional space, find a subject, point the camera, compose the shot, focus, and click the shutter. I have taken a photograph.
Adopting a photojournalistic approach, the series aims to engage in a sort of social-realism for the software-age, documenting poverty and the lives of the homeless within video game environment’s socio-economic hegemony. Through performative engagement with the uncanny simulations of society’s most vulnerable, Down and Out in Los Santos aims to unearth the viewer’s empathy and humanity through manipulative photographic tropes.
Embarking on daily photographic expeditions within this video game, I have already spent over a year capturing these homeless people, their surroundings, the infrastructure, and hopefully the symptoms and causes of their states of being. The initial result is thousands of quasi-photographic images, which depict moments of real intimacy between myself and these virtual people. There are a number of ways that this is achieved – such as waiting for eye-contact with the simulant, or using depth of field to draw focus to objects, poses, limbs and intimate moments between groups of people. These individuals do not provide the game with any functionality per se, as they never intersect with the narrative. Instead they exist as why I think of as an ‘ambient human presence’. I am not proud to say that they exist in a similar place of reality to the homeless people who sit on the doorsteps of my studio every day in Dublin’s city centre.
While the inhabitants of Los Santos possess only a superficial amount of artificial intelligence, it is possible to have real emotional experiences in their presence. This might sound sad and geeky, but it is true. The characters are aware of my presence as I photograph them, some ignore me, other times I am attacked and must defend myself. They chatter to each other, they share alcohol and cigarettes, they ask for money to buy drugs. Programmed to self-identify, they congregate with those in similar social situations to themselves.
Once I have taken the photographs, the images are then uploaded to a social network called the ‘Rockstar Social Club’. The feature called ‘Snapmatic’ is itself is a simulacra of modern photo-sharing apps, such as Instagram. A technical imposition of corporate pragmatism means the images are downsized and compressed, and their journey through these networks is scarred onto the pixelated, low-resolution corrupted surface of these digital photos.
This website is where the project will be initially rolled out, with software automatically posting images every day until some point in 2018. I have already posted hundreds of these images online on various networks. On Instagram, the project takes an interesting turn. Through the use of hashtags, I have been attempting to allow these images penetrate traditional photographic and photojournalism networks. The unexpected result here is that dozens of bots have been ‘liking’ these images. The bots in question have been installed by particular Instagram users to automatically ‘like’ every single post on particular hashtags. I have been calling these the “Sycophant Bots”, since the exist only to flatter users, with the hope that people like me will ‘follow’ their host-account. Perhaps it is poetic, but entirely appropriate that software is the first audience of these empathetic photographs of software people.
“Interview: Alan Butler And The Aesthetics Of The Video Game Re-Enactment” on gamescenes: http://www.gamescenes.org/2017/05/interview-alan-butler-.html
Thibault Brunet is a French photographer who works with images from game environments. His series Vice City (2008) is entirely shot within Grand Theft Auto Vice City and lets us “explore the spaces that are usually forgotten by players. The pictures show side spaces, barren and industrialized areas. The aesthetics reminds us contemporary photo shooting, Japanese engraving and painting. Confusion is over the nature and the origins of these floating pictures”.
A pertinent way of questioning an unusual path, as yet little explored in contemporary creation: the aesthetic elements of video games, diverted and transformed into a work of art.
Amélie Adamo «Wandering in a Virtual World» ETC Magazine
Project page: http://thibaultbrunet.fr/#vice-city-4
In his series First Person Shooter, Brunet isolates landscapes from video games, that look like an uncertain Middle East location, and portraits of soldiers-characters.
Brunet is successfully commenting on the surreality of virtual entertainment worlds created via avatars and algorithms that are in turn based on real-life, drawing us back in to consider the inherent surreality of war itself.
Amanda Lang, Aperture Foundation
Project page: http://thibaultbrunet.fr/#first-person-shooter-3
Eron Rauch attempts to categorise the different kinds of in-game photographs in four categories, drawing a parallel with the history of photography and its development.
So what were people doing with photography for that whole previous century if they weren’t sure if it was art? I know I’m being facetious, but the question begs a number of interesting followup-questions which directly inform what is happening now with IGP and virtual photography: Why do people make photographs? Who makes photographs? What kinds of photographs get made? What does photography mean in the internet age?
Well, let’s run through a few of the major historical veins of photography to see what they might teach us about talking about a broadened pallet of types of IGP. These aren’t absolute categories, in fact many photographs can be part of more than one category or even change categories as they age (such as the military survey photos of the uncolonized American West now being shown as art in the Getty).
Let’s talk about four categories. We’ll call these photography divisions “Art”, “Amateur,” “Artisan,” and “Vernacular.”
Eron Rauch website: http://www.eronrauch.com/
A Land To Die In project page: http://www.eronrauch.com/#/a-land-to-die-in/