ByMark Newton, writer at Creators.co
Movie Pilot Associate Editor. Email: mark@moviepilot.com
Mark Newton

As a TIME conflict photographer, Ashley Gilbertson is used to taking photos in some pretty dangerous situations. However, even the most harrowing real-world situations probably isn't going to include fungal-infected-zombies, and this is what he had to contend with in his latest photography project.

The Mission

Gilbertson was assigned by TIME to 'embed' within PS4's The Last of Us Remastered - a new reduxed version of the game which includes a 'Photo Mode'. He went on to capture the horrific post-apocalypse world of the Naughty Dog game by applying his rigorous methods to the virtual world. However, as his commentary explains, he often found the medium frustrating and limiting. First, let's take a look at his pictures below:

"I’d gravitate towards darker situations, or spots with slivers of light, both environments I love to shoot on the field."
"I’d gravitate towards darker situations, or spots with slivers of light, both environments I love to shoot on the field."
"The game, which is very carefully rendered to look as real as possible..."
"The game, which is very carefully rendered to look as real as possible..."
"I left the experience with a sense that by familiarizing and desensitizing ourselves to violence like this can turn us into zombies."
"I left the experience with a sense that by familiarizing and desensitizing ourselves to violence like this can turn us into zombies."
"How do we reach a readership that is accustomed to seeing people dying en masse in war zones as a result of games like this one?"
"How do we reach a readership that is accustomed to seeing people dying en masse in war zones as a result of games like this one?"
"None of the game's characters show distress, and that to me was bizarre – it’s a post apocalyptic scenario, with a few remaining humans fighting for the survival of their race! "
"None of the game's characters show distress, and that to me was bizarre – it’s a post apocalyptic scenario, with a few remaining humans fighting for the survival of their race! "
"To be successful, a player must be the perpetrator of extreme, and highly graphic, violence. "
"To be successful, a player must be the perpetrator of extreme, and highly graphic, violence. "
"Within the game, I could freeze time."
"Within the game, I could freeze time."
"I’m interested in a more emotionally engaged type of photography, where the human reaction to a scene is what brings a story to life. That was tough inside this game."
"I’m interested in a more emotionally engaged type of photography, where the human reaction to a scene is what brings a story to life. That was tough inside this game."
"I needed to make the shots imperfect because, I believe, imperfections make photography human."
"I needed to make the shots imperfect because, I believe, imperfections make photography human."
"Occasionally the characters show anger, though generally they’re nonchalant about the situation they’ve found themselves in. In the end, their emotions mimicked that of the zombies they were killing."
"Occasionally the characters show anger, though generally they’re nonchalant about the situation they’ve found themselves in. In the end, their emotions mimicked that of the zombies they were killing."
"If I failed, I’d have my neck bitten, with blood exploding from my jugular in some pseudo-sexual zombie move, forcing me to restart the level."
"If I failed, I’d have my neck bitten, with blood exploding from my jugular in some pseudo-sexual zombie move, forcing me to restart the level."
"By the time I finished this assignment, watching the carnage had became easier."
"By the time I finished this assignment, watching the carnage had became easier."
"I shot through a dirty window at one point trying to emulate the refugee-in-bus-window-at-border-crossing image, but the subject, my virtual daughter, didn’t have the required expression of distress."
"I shot through a dirty window at one point trying to emulate the refugee-in-bus-window-at-border-crossing image, but the subject, my virtual daughter, didn’t have the required expression of distress."

Video games can not deliver the same emotive range as reality

Ashley Gilbertson in the TIME Studio playing The Last of UsRead more: This War Photographer Embedded Himself in a Video Game - LightBox http://lightbox.time.com/2014/09/15/war-photographer-video-game/#ixzz3DlRv4KkW#ixzz3DlRv4KkW" title="Ashley Gilbertson in the TIME Studio playing The Last of UsRead more: This War Photographer Embedded Himself in a Video Game - LightBox http://lightbox.time.com/2014/09/15/war-photographer-video-game/">
Ashley Gilbertson in the TIME Studio playing The Last of UsRead more: This War Photographer Embedded Himself in a Video Game - LightBox http://lightbox.time.com/2014/09/15/war-photographer-video-game/

Gilbertson, who confesses he is not a gamer, certainly found doing his job within a video game world to be a challenging affair. First, there were some positives, namely that you can pause the action and take time to set up a perfect shot. However, as he continued on the venture, he found the medium to have some limitations.

Most prominently, he felt the video game characters simply couldn't emote in that way humans would in these situations, resulting in pictures which lacked humanity. Furthermore, he also found if difficult to deal with the graphic nature of the game, especially because he has witnessed violence and warfare in the real world. Ultimately, he states that these kind of video games, could perhaps result in us losing interest or empathy with real world violence. He concludes:

Yet, I left the experience with a sense that by familiarizing and desensitizing ourselves to violence like this can turn us into zombies. Our lack of empathy and unwillingness to engage with those involved in tragedy stems from our comfort with the trauma those people are experiencing.

Has he missed the point?

Although there might be something in what Gilbertson is saying, I think he might have slightly missed the point of The Last of Us (indeed, he wasn't actually the one playing it). In this narrative orientated game the violence isn't there for simply violence's sake, but is instead a mechanism through which we judge Joel as a character. One of the major themes of The Last of Us concerns what length people are willing to go to protect something they care about, and this is made more palpable by making you an active participant in that violence.

Poll

Do you think Gilbertson truly captured The Last of Us?

Source: TIME

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