Virtual Photography

I did virtual photography extensively through the end of 2020 and the first half of 2021. For anyone who doesn't know: it's the practice of taking screenshots within virtual spaces, especially by using the 'photo modes' present in many videogames. Or, simply by turning off the heads up display so that it doesn't get in the way. It uses the usual photography conventions. In fact, the goal is often to capture an image which looks like it could have been taken in the physical-world. My broader goal in taking all these stills was to fully embrace and help validate this practice as a form of photography parallel to film and digital. I found it tricky to navigate audiences making assumptions about how limited it must be. They would often think that my stylistic choices, which are the same ones I make when photographing the physical world, weren't choices at all and were determined by the medium: taking photos when there's no one around; setting up the compositions so that any straight edges are parallel with the edge of the photo; capturing specific moments of various factors interacting, like weather conditions, time of day, lighting. The open world videogames in which I took these photos all simulate those factors independently and so, much like photographing the physical world, much of the artistry involved is in having an eye for the right moment. That's paired with the skill of capturing the moment the right way. The photos below are the culmination of about 100 stills worth of practice. I've put together a contact sheet of most of them. When looking at them bear in mind what I've talked about. Every compositional element, in every one, is considered and intentional. I took most in Cyberpunk 2077. The four below are a nice bookend because I took them in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim; the first couple of virtual photos I took at part of this project, back in November 2020, were the only other time I used that game.

I transitioned into all of this because I had been primarily been doing paintings in the shed beforehand and the winter weather made it impractical. Those paintings were abstracts using colour palettes based on landscapes, as a way of doing the colour equivalent of affirmational phrases. The virtual photography was the logical next step for me because I was already spending a lot of time in open world video games on account of the pandemic. Every now and then I would take a break from the game to look at the views and take it all in. It left me feeling incredibly relaxed and gave me the same bursts of serotonin as if I were there physically.