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.
Vladimir Rizov: Virtual Photography, Immersion, and Boundaries in Grand Theft Auto V.
Photography is a visual practice that deals with the production of images. Images, be it digital or analogue, moving or still, are consistently framed in a particular material artefact. Furthermore, most perspectives tend to see the image as a singular, material final product that is deeply rooted in a teleological framework. However, such perspectives clearly omit the richness of the concept image, as this conference rightly raises the issues of materiality, multimodality, and mediality. In order to demonstrate the inherent multisensory aspect of an image, as well as its rootedness in a practice that is not necessarily teleological, I will explore instances of photographs taken in-game by Grand Theft Auto V (GTA V) players. The element of virtuality in the game will reveal several aspects of the image. First, the disembodied element of virtuality poses an interesting relationship between image, medium, and the body (Hansen, 2004). This relates heavily to issues of embodiment and agency, where the two practices of photography and gaming meet. While gaming is widely seen to be concerned with immersion, photography can be conceptualised as a practice of seeing. Second, because images exist dependent on a medium, the contrast between the moving images of the virtual game world of GTA V and the still photographs created will provide opportunity for reflection on the concept of image in its multiple forms. As Vivian Sobchack writes ‘electronic presence has neither a point of view nor a visual situation, such as we experience, respectively, with the photograph and the cinema’ (2000: 151). However, what happens when the third person experience of GTA V coincides with a POV use of a virtual camera? As Galloway points out, shooter games already have expanded the ‘definitional bounds of the subjective shot’ (2006: 63), but the POV use of a virtual camera seems to not only be expanding the experience of the virtual world, but simultaneously questioning it; both allowing for further immersion and potential detachment from the in-game world. This is particularly interesting, since games are widely considered ‘an active medium’ (Galloway, 2006: 83) that involves a player’s physical input and multisensory experience. However, while Galloway claims that ‘the primary phenomenological reality of games is that of action (rather than looking, as it is with cinema in what Jameson described as “rapt, mindless fascination”)’ (2006: 83), the case of virtual photography in-game problematizes this by converging action and seeing into a singular experience.
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
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.
Benoit Paillé is a photographer who has worked with pictures taken within GTA V, combined with real world cameras and photography production. He attempts to merge the two realities, in an interplay between the virtual and the real.
A GTA V fan took photos in the game city of Los Santos and then tried to take photos in Los Angeles and match the two. The level of resemblance of the photograph is remarkable, both because of the realism of the game world and the matching of photo angle and composition of the two shots. See all the images on the original post here on GTAist: http://www.gtaist.com/grand-theft-auto-in-real-life/
By dragging from the center to the image you can reveal one of the two pictures. Sliding to the far left or far right will unmask the photo taken in real LA or the one from game.
At the bottom of the article you find a game selfie reenactement project. The author of the video (jonan777) matches in-game selfies with selfies taken in real life Los Angeles. Once again the level of accuracy in matching the two is held in great consideration.
Compilation of selfies of Franklin GTA V compared side by side to selfies of jonan777 in a LA trip. Its been a year of Gta v and after 600hr+ of playing it this trip made me feel like I was inside the game. I missed some selfies but everything was exactly like R* replicated in the game. #gtaforlife