GTA V Street Photography

Grand Theft Auto V street photography: an experiment in documenting a systematized, non-human game world's culture. All photos taken using the game's built-in photo feature, hence the low resolution.

Back in the heyday of “virtual worlds,” Richard Bartle segmented players of online games into four key types: killers, achievers, socializers, and explorers. I’ve always identified with that last role. For me games are nothing if not spaces and places to be unraveled, understood, and appreciated. The genre of “videogame tourism” or “videogame photography” seems to be growing out of this affinity for game spaces, creating artifacts that document, preserve, and interpret. They’re also kinda riddled with an anxiety too, though, one that’s compensated by a latent pretentiousness.  Consequently, a lot of videogame photography seems to implore the art community at-large that there’s something special to be found in games. Iain Andrews‘ work, which is my main inspiration, doesn’t fall into this trap. There’s something really pure with what he’s produced.

So inspired by Andrews, I tried my hand at taking some pictures in the PlayStation 4 version of Grand Theft Auto V. Unlike Andrews, I didn’t opt for ultra-high resolution photos or his austere sensibility. I wanted to resist the way some of these photographs, Andrews included, dip into techno-fetishism and lean on a kind of hyperreal refraction of games. To be honest, it also seemed like Grand Theft Auto V was simply just a better fit for scrappy, muddy street photography; the kind we sloppily and earnestly take on phones now. So with this in mind I limited myself to the game’s built-in photo app and even played around with the Instagram-like filters. This is what I uncovered.