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My Place in Contemporary Practice

Over the last few months, I have been exploring the idea of virtual photography as part of my creative practice.

Capturing still images in games has been possible for several years and the game developers have listened to their communities, and they’ve implemented a dedicated “photo mode” in most recent games. The photo mode has become more than a quick screenshot, giving us the tools to emulate real world photography in our games by including settings that affect the aperture or the focal distance. And as technology improves, games start to look more photorealistic.

Virtual photography, particularly virtual street photography, has become more popular since the Covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdowns. It has given real world street photographers a platform to continue their practice without breaching their lockdown.

Some argue that this isn’t photography at all, that we are just using someone else’s work to create art and it is a form of appropriation. There was a time where I’d agree with this argument, and I’d stay away from any photography that wasn’t taken with a physical camera. After some reflection, I have changed my mind. After all, when an architectural photographer photographs City buildings, those building’s don’t belong to the photographer. The photographer didn’t design or build them, they simply admired them and preserved their image.

A downside to virtual photography is the the game developers still own the copyrights to the images. While they encourage you to share it over social media, you are not allowed to sell the images. This doesn’t mean that it is without commercial value. With good enough quality images, it is possible to catch the attention of the game developers and find your way to creating promotional images for them using the technique. Other avenues using this art form could include YouTube streaming. However, is this where my future is? As fascinating as I have found this topic, and it is an area I will continue to pursue in my own time, I don’t think this is where I want my photographic career to take me.