These images - borrowed from Virtual Geographic, a relatively new Tumblr curated by a game photographer called James Pollock - are part of the documentation of his latest art project, i.e., a wall of 190 photos depicting video game spaces "printed and cut to resemble Polaroids".
As James writes on his blog:
"Taking photographs is my way of exploring and testing the bounds of digital environments, and it’s the taking that’s an important part of the experience, it crystallises part of the realism of these spaces for me, as does developing film and printing photos. It all adds tangibility, and it’s a great way to play games too!" (James Pollock, Virtual Geographic, May 22 2012)
"I recently started an art project where I’m looking at reality and virtual reality, these two spaces where I spend most of my time, bringing them together in interesting ways. With that in mind, I added in some light leak effects to try give the images a sense of realism and tangibility (I even printed a couple of the shots onto glossy paper so I could feel them), they also fit with the vintage style of the map." (James Pollock, Virtual Geographic, April 3 2012)
The act of appropriating ephemeral game spaces through the means of machinima or screen grabbing aka game photography is a common preservation strategy. The quality of such interventions, however, varies greatly. I love the idea of using an obsolete format like the Polaroid for practice related to visual documentation - I remember seeing a similarly-anachronistic project called WoW Polaroids a few years ago (the original website is now gone). The desire to render tangible and concrete what is, by definition, immaterial and fluid is manifest in such statements as "I even printed a couple of the shots onto glossy paper so I could feel them" and "it’s the taking that’s an important part of the experience".
With Virtual Geographic, James is both appropriating and reinventing these spaces with the aid of different filters, a la Instagram.
Equally impressive are his black and white "film" photographs of GTA IV’s Liberty City:
Or these abstract views of Minecraft:
Discussing the Minecraft photo series, James writes:
"The shots remind me of the bits in Assassin’s Creed where you ‘desynchronise’, causing the memory of a beautiful classical city to collapse, exposing the digital system supporting it. They also remind me of the work of Robert Overweg, one of my favourite virtual photographers, I think there’s a lot of potential for producing glitch art and the like in these kind of environments." (James, Virtual Geographic, April 4 2012)
We will definitely keep an eye on James' project(s). Game photography is growing.
As an aside: The only thing that I find interesting about the new tablet-like controller for the Nintendo Wii U is the possibility of using the second screen to navigate virtual spaces with an approach that is more photographic than ludic. In fact, the "Panorama View" is by far the most compelling feature of the GamePad. Invented in the mid-19th century, the photographic panorama returns in videogame form at the beginning of the 21st century. Consider these examples:
Submitted by Matteo Bittanti
All images (c) James Pollock, Virtual Geographic