Essays by Brit Salvesen and Mirjam Kooiman All the images in this work are taken in Grand Theft Auto V —a video game set in Los Santos, an “open world” scenario that closely resembles Los Angeles and its surroundings. Turned into a virtual replica, the city looks familiar and recognizable, but at the same time, pieces are missing, distances are altered, dimensions changed.
While exploring the possibilities and the meanings of photographing a virtual place, the work addresses further issues, such as the truthfulness of photography and our belief in this medium as a trace of reality. Cropped and turned to black and white by the author, all the images are originally taken by different players around the world. When it comes to showing how realistic this video game is, how much it “seems real”, it’s striking how all these users unknowingly adopt a visual language as descriptive and objective as possible, somehow close to the documentary style.
Thus, their pictures end up resembling those of many great photographers who worked in L.A. widely throughout the second half of the past century. With their own perspective, these artists all contributed to the creation of an image of the city that is still vivid and lasting.
On Frieze Magazine, James Bridle shows Justin Berry’s Stone Shields (2012) – an image taken from the game Medal of Honor – and compares it with Anselm Adams’ 1968 photograph El Capitan, Winter, Sunrise, Yosemite National Park, California.
It doesn’t carry any obvious signs of digital manipulation, but it bears out Adams’s famous remark: ‘You don’t take a photograph, you make it.’ Stone Shields is a composite of screenshots, created within the virtual world of the first-person-shooter video game Medal of Honor: its landscape is entirely digital. It is a composite of composites, as every pixel has been rendered from millions of lines of code and pre-existing textures created by the game’s designers, captured within the experience of the game itself (one notorious for its violence and militarism), and ultimately manipulated by Berry. In its artifice, it reveals all the artifice of image-making itself.
in his ending remark Bridle aligns the construction of the image through the camera medium and the textured digital image making process:
photography itself is a construct, and all images contain the mechanics of their own making.
Morten Rockford Ravn attempts to capture the “existential despair” of the modern-day America represented in Grand Theft Auto V in his series titled “Fear and loathing in GTA V”. The series is ongoing and consists of black and white photos taken with the in-game smartphone camera.