GAME FACE. The Art of Photographing Game Players (2000-2021)
A selection of photographic portraits of video game players, spanning two decades, created by artists and photographers.
In all cases, the emphasis on the gamer, rather than the game. The order is chronological.
BEATE GEISSLER & OLIVER SANN'S SHOOTER (2000)
Beate Geissler, Oliver Sann, "Sy-man, 98", 2000, C-print, 90 x 80 cm
"The work ‘shooter’ consists of a video and photo documentation of LAN parties organised by the artists in their studio over a period of a year and a half. Both the video sequences and the photo documentations show the players front-on against a neutral background from a constant camera angle. The photographs are taken in the very moment the depicted person is killing an opponent in the computer game. According to the artists, ‘The viewer […] witnesses a life-and-death game with no consequences’. ‘shooter’ presents a test set-up with which to analyse the human relation to real and virtual spaces and the associated gestures and facial expressions. At the same time, the artists question the function of the real body and the game of identities with reference to New Technologies." (Silke Albrecht)
AXEL STOCKBURGER' PSX WARRIORS: GRAN TURISMO (2001)
Alex Stockburger, PSX Warriors Gran Turismo, 2001, DVD Video, 3 minutes, Edition of 5, courtesy of the artist and Jim & Mary Barr Collection
"The piece PSX-Warriors GRAN TURISMO is a portrait of a young woman playing a popular racing game. The whole gameplay is visible on the ”Inter-face” of the player. Her reactions, facial expressions and movements translate the qualities of the virtual gamespace. Every action in the digital environment of the game is followed by a little movement of her body. These traces of movement are stronger with people who are new to the immersive spaces of computer- games. Players that are used to games do not move much, they have learnt to constrain their movement to their fingertips on the gamepad. The human side of the interface is used as a screen for the abstract space produced by the game." (Alex Stockburger)
LINK: Axel Stockburger
PHILIP TOLEDANOS' GAMERS (2002)
"I’ve never been very interested in straightforward portrait photography. I often feel that it reveals nothing other than the photographer’s intentions, and a topographic record of the effects of time. But what of hidden emotions and feelings? Characteristics that are usually secreted from the world? How do we record those? I wondered if there was a way to unconsciously tease out aspects of people’s personality, and capture it on film. So I had them play video games." (Philip Toldeano)
LINK: Philip Toledano
ROBBIE COOPER'S ALTER EGO (2003)
"Photographer Robbie Cooper's Alter Ego explores personal and social identities being shaped in the metaverse at the beginning of the twenty-first century. Portraits of online gamers and virtual-world participants from America, Asia and Europe are paired with images of their avatars, with profiles of their real-world and virtual characters."
SHAUNA FRISCHKORN'S GAME BOYS (2004)
"Game Boys is an ongoing portrait series of young men engaged in a familiar pastime--they are playing video games. For the past two years, I have been photographing video game players who come to my studio, sit in the dark, and play for hours while I quietly watch and shoot. The studio setting lends a theatrical quality to this commonplace activity. Sometimes, I watch the game to see a particularly interesting sequence, but mostly I just watch the game players. I seek to explore the popular culture phenomenon of video games by examining the “gamers” who play them" (Shauna Frischkorn)
LINK: Shauna Frischkorn
SIBYLLE FENDT'S NO SLEEP BEFORE I DIE (2005)
These photographic portraits of gamers were take at a LAN party in Berlin over the course of two nights in 2005 by German photographer Sibylle Fendt.
LINK: Sibylle Fendt
MARCO BRAMBILLA'S HALFLIFE (2004)
"A multi-channel video installation, HalfLife juxtaposes surveillance video of gamers playing the popular video game Counter-Strike with a live video feed of the game world in which they are playing. The player’s expressions are seen from the cross-hairs’ point-of-view while the their virtual actions inside the game-world unfold in a progressively more violent and graphic video spectacle. A virtual cycle of life unfolds as characters are killed off in the game and disappear from the surveillance channel to be immediately replaced by the next player."
LINK: Marco Brambilla
AXEL STOCKBURGER'S TOKYO ARCADE WARRIORS - SHIBUYA (2005)
"Tokyo Arcade Warriors - Shibuya is part of an ongoing series of video portraits of players of video and computer games. It was shot in September 2003 in three different public gaming arcades near Shinjuku/Tokyo. The faces of the players are the only visible evidence of the games being played. Their facial reactions are synced with the sounds emerging from the game consoles."
LINK: Axel Stockburger
JAMES RAJOTTE'S BLASTED (2006)
"A portrait project intended to show a simultaneous moment in which people feel a heightened sense of self in a non-reality" (Rajotte)
"With blasted James joins the ranks of photographers working as sociologists, including, but not limited to, Phillip Toledano, made famous by his portraits of video gamers, and Paul Graham who photographed people watching television in the late 80's and early 90's.
He's in good company but his photos stand out because they are slightly ambiguous. His subjects seem genuinely engaged but sometimes sad, sometimes thoughtful, sometimes alienated, and always alone, illuminated by the off-color glow of a monitor, and seated in surrounding darkness. The work gives rise to the questions he poses:
What, if any, are the visual opportunity costs of an electronic society? Why look at actual reality when we are able [to] fulfill our intellectual and emotional needs anonymously and vicariously via meta-realities?" (Jon Belkman, 2006)
LINK: James Rajotte
STEPHAN ZAUBITZER & BENJAMIN "KAEMU" VIE's KOPFS (2011)
"Faces of video gamers from 'Opération Kopfs' which took place during the 'Nuit Blanche' in Amiens, on October 7th 2006. The concept: the photographer took photos of gamers, which were subsequently projected live onto three screens overlooking the Somme River. Kopfs was a collaborative project between photographer Stephan Zaubitzer and Benjamin "Kaemu" Vie, digital artist." (Stephan Zaubitzer)
TODD DEUTSCH'S GAMERS (2006)
Todd Deutsch, "Gamers", C-print, 20 x 24 inches (10.5 x16 image area), 2006
"The photographs in Gamers were made at Local Area Network (LAN) parties in suburban Minneapolis and St. Paul. Avid gamers take over empty storefronts and set up temporary networks for head- to- head gaming. Players bring their computers, sleeping bags, and enough caffeine to survive two days of nonstop video combat." (Todd Deutsch)
ARI S. PESCOVITZ'S GUITAR HERO FACES (2007)
LINK: Ari S. Pescovitz
BOWNIK'S GAMERS (2007-2009)
Bownik, Gamers, series of 17 photographs, archival print on dibond, framed box, 92 cm x 110 cm i 54 cm x 66 cm
Pictures from the solo exhibition ' Gamers ' in Yours Gallery/Wystawa indywidualna, Warsaw, Poland, 2010.
"The project consists of two parts: Gamers and Training Halls. Large-format portraits reflect a typological approach to the new image of a sportsman, whose physical representation is not known to his rival due to the electronic form of competition. In this project, the gamer is revealed to everyone. Yet, this is not about exposing or trying to match the reality with the mental or virtual images of individuals. This is a sort of analysis of the cyber environment and people who constitute it. Each of the photographs of a room interior shows two realities overlaying in a single image. The rooms fulfill the role of a training site for everyday gaming practice, as well as a normal bedroom, where details and objects betray the history of growing up in this place. The mixture of the training place of an e-gamer and his personal surroundings creates a very interesting and detailed picture. In 2008 Gamers project was granted a scholarship from the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage." (Bownik)
ERIN ROSE'S GAMERS (2008)
Erin Rose, "Chris, KrogerSentinel, member of the Holy Toledo Clan, C-Print, 2008
Portraits of Xbox 360 gamers by Erin Rose, a photographer and former EB Games game Consultant.
LINK: Erin Rose
ADRIAAN VAN DER PLOEG's LMNR (2008)
Adriaan van der Ploeg, Player, C-print, 2008
"The LMIRL –let’s meet in real life- project consists of 2 series of each 21 photographs about online community and gaming. Young people who play games like world of warcraft and counterstrike for hours and hours against each other. Their avatars range from brave knights to dangerous terrorists. The only thing that links these boys the their virtual world is their nickname. Created in 2007 and 2008 in The Netherlands, Belgium, France and China." (Adriaan van der Ploeg)
LINK: Adriaan van der Ploeg
ROBBIE COOPER'S IMMERSION (2009)
Robbie Cooper, Immersion, still image, 2009.
After "Alter/Ego", Robbie Cooper filmed teenagers while playing video games using an Interrotron.
Although "Immersion" is mainly a video project, Cooper took photographs of the players as well.
LINK: Robbie Cooper
GIOVANNI FREDI'S KINSHASHA VS. AKIHABARA (2010-2011)
Giovanni Fredi, "Kinshasa vs. Akihabara", Digital print, 2011
LINK: Giovanni Fredi
MATTEO BITTANTI + IOCOSE'S GAME ARTHRITIS (2011)
LINK: Game Arthritis
PEDRO MONTESINO'S JUGADORES I, JUGADORES II (2011)
"Jugadores guiando acciones, decisiones, movimientos, sintiendo, recordando. La duda de si somos nosotros los que jugamos, los que recreamos el mundo, o somos recreados, manipulados, anulados. Un simple problema de identidad." (Pedro Montesino)
LINK: Pedro Montesino
NICK HAGEN'S LAGOS GAMING (2013)
"When I pitched a Nigerian contact the idea of finding a semi-pro gaming team to follow, he explained that those don't actually exist in Nigeria because of the poor internet infrastructure. All internet comes from 4G routers on overly stressed networks, meaning that the internet is extremely unreliable and that online gaming doesn't happen here in any meaningful way. Typically online first-person shooters are where teams like I was looking for spring up, so I was barking up the wrong tree. Because of the lack of online gaming, local gaming is stronger. This is why all of the tournaments I've been to or heard of have been either one-on-one soccer or fighting games." (Nick Hagen, 2013)
LINK: Nick Hagen
JAVIER LASPIUR'S CONTROLLERS (2014)
Madrid-based photographer Javier Laspiur documented the history and evolution of game controllers with a series of photographs that he took in 2014. Laspiur photographed himself, sitting on a brown sofa, with each console he played over the years, beginning with Teletenis in 1983 and ending, three decades later, with the Playstation Vita in 2013. There are some glaring omissions - for instance, an Xbox 360 is nowhere to be seen - but then again, this is a personal project and it reflects a game history, not the History of games. And yes, technically speaking, this is not a game face. More like a game appendix...
LINK: Javier Laspiur
FEDERICA SASSO'S BATTLE ROYALE (2020)
Milan based photographer Federica Sasso documents the relationship between gaming, self- representation and body language.
LINK: Federica Sasso
Created by Matteo Bittanti. Suggestions? Omissions? Mistakes? Please contact me.