Wherein the Intrepid Explorer Realizes That She Doesn’t Take Photographs in Second Life

Black Kite (moderate)

It’s never too late to admit the error of one’s ways. It was brought to my attention yesterday that I’ve committed an egregious error ….. I’ve arrogated the title of “photographer” to describe my pursuit of images from Second Life.

I’ve never claimed to do it well, but I have always thought of my hobby as “photography”. I do plead extenuating circumstances. I guess to help us non-technical beings get a glimmer of the use of some functions the creators named things like “camera” and “f-stop” in the viewer. Still, I should have realized much earlier that what I create isn’t the same as real “photographs”.

Black Kite (moderate)

Photography is an art form I admire and I love what the great practitioners can do with light and shadow and talent. They do it in the physical world with varying devices which all have one thing in common (apart from their skill and artistry) – they use a lens.

I might have dozens and dozens of settings and buttons but I definitely don’t have a lens.

I saw one suggestion that my hobby consists of “screen captures”. Now it might be splitting hairs, it’s my blog and my hair and I’ll split what I like, but I’ll disagree with that term.

Black Kite (moderate)

In my mind “screen capture” implies no thought. I’m old enough that this function is synonymous with “screen print” – the mindless touch of a button on the keyboard designed for showing forms and fields and writing user manuals.

I have enough trouble reconciling the fact that the content is created by real artists and I just capture it. The fact that I can move around a 3d environment with my camera-like functionality and worry about composition,  lighting, and mood makes me cringe at the idea that somehow there’s nothing of me in the result. However, I don’t want to continue pretending that I’m a “photographer”.  It’s not right.

Black Kite (moderate)

What is needed is a new term that accurately describes what I’m doing. Different kinds of images are taken in various professions which don’t use a lens – the x-ray is one.  The word “imaging” is used often in areas like the medical disciplines (magnetic resonance imaging for example). Imaging, therefore, should be part of the new term.

Somehow the fact that what I’m doing is computer-aided obviously needs to be highlighted. In addition, the reality that I’m in a virtual world should be acknowledged.

I’ll think about it and try and avoid a term or acronym that will offend anybody. I’d hate to wind up with something like P.A.I.N.T. and have to apologize to a whole other group.

Black Kite (moderate)
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  1. Windup bird brains?

    (Maybe they’re relatives.)


  2. Quadrapop

     /  August 7, 2012

    How about Digital image capture, and btw what you do is as much art as any other medium that generates 2d images. The lens part is a misnomer…. Think pin hole camera, no lens involved there, but the results are photo graphs (literally: light drawing).
    Why not just call what you do image making… Add digital if you must or virtual world image capture (as that is as literal as light drawing)?

    • I’m thinking *grin*

      • What you call yourself and your creative actions is up to you. If you want to be entirely pedantic, all images created with digital camera/screen capture then post processed in image manipulation programmes and then maybe printed, should in fact be called “mixed media” as each tool used in it’s creation is considered in some circles a medium in it’s own right.

  3. YOU ARE A PHOTOGRAPHER! Regardless of what the ‘photographic purist’ luddites say. This train has already long ago left the station. Virtual World photography is the term, and it always will be from now forward, whether the naysayers like it or not. End of story.

    Make no mistake about it, this ‘issue’ is meant by those who use it only to downgrade those who practice VR photography from some imagined status that they perceive they have, as they seek to mentally elevate themselves above others.

    I am a lifetime professional photographer. I have shot it all for thirty years. Film in all formats, fashion, studio still life, location advertising, landscapes etc. etc. I have also for the last 4 1/2 years been a PHOTOGRAPHER inside the virtual world of Second Life.

    When I shoot inside of VR worlds. I use EXACTLY the same process of finding and composing an image that I do anywhere else. I capture an image from a near infinite number of possible points of view. I compose and frame the image just as I would any image. I adjust the lighting and maybe move the props, just as I would any scene. And most importantly the real or virtual world I’m shooting was mostly made by others and the point of view FOUND by me just as any other type of photography.

    Virtually every single RL professional photographer I know shooting in virtual worlds agrees with this. Those who think that VR photography is not up to the wonderful status of the term ‘photography’, have not delved deeply into it enough to see the exact shooting process similarity.

    It is especially ironic, that in these days of digital photography, where every pixel is manipulated away from the original capture, sometimes several generations deep, that some people still would insist that this is somehow more ‘pure’ than digital capture inside of a virtual world, which also can be manipulated right at the time of shooting or post processing. The so called ‘truth’ of the image has ALWAYS been just a representation and somewhat of a lie from the very beginnings of photography in 1826.

    Over my photo career, technology has driven the field, every few years there is new technology to be adopted and assimilated. Change is the only constant. But that said, what NEVER changes is the process of discovering point of view and framing of the image into a 2D representation using the principles of design.

    Luddites, go argue about something else. Virtual World Photography is named that and will keep the name from now on…….

  4. Photongraphy is to Photography as Machinima is to Cinema. That’s my story and I’m sticking with it.

  5. (Plus what Scarp said.)

  6. Well, perhaps a better comparison would be Pixelography, because of the digital nature of it all. I love the “ography” part of these wrods as they convey the creative human/av process involved in the action better to me. But I really do just call it Photography when it comes down to it.

  7. Ricco Saenz

     /  August 7, 2012

    With all due respect, isn’t it some preciosity? I mean, it’s obvious that those pictures are computer captured ones, right?

    • Yes it is – the discussion I saw yesterday bothered me so I just had to poke at it. :)

      • Good G’al! You made me Google a new word! /me channels Craig Ferguson’s robot sidekick Geoff Peterson’s voice: “How dare you!”

  8. /me stands and applauds Scarp.

    Well said!

  9. We who take pictures in Second Life have an ability not given to those whose cameras are trapped in what the world thinks of as reality. We can capture the past, present, and future as easily as a still-photographer captures a tomato. Our sight is not limited by time and space. In a very real, though not exact, sense, we are Lensmen.

  10. The tools are inconsequential. You are a photographer – both capture a moment in time and space, however that space is presented or located in order to convey emotion or presence of mind.

    • Thank you:) I’m not sure why it makes others feel better to diss what we do inworld – I think snobbery is just a consequence of either technology or ignorance.

  11. cyberloom

     /  August 7, 2012

    I understand that the word ‘photography’ is derived from Greek and means something like ‘drawing with light’. So… the lens, the location (whether physical or virtual) and the name used to describe our actions are all incidental. The cool part is that through photography or ‘drawing with light’ (however this is achieved) we capture fleeting records of our world(s).

  12. I agree with the rest and have had this argument before. I have a digital SLR IRL, I point it at things, using my brain and emotions to get the right angle, crop, lighting, etc, etc,etc, and what it records are 1s and 0s that are my attempt to display what I saw or felt in a way that will communicate to others. When I do virtual photography in world, it’s exactly the same process but with a different tool (except I can move my camera in ways I would kill for IRL). It doesn’t need a new word – it’s photography in a virtual world.

  13. petrvanbeeck

     /  August 10, 2012

    Beautiful work Honour.

  14. Aloha Honour! Congrats for your brilliant captures!

    Photography in SL can be a little complicated to understand to people that aren’t involved quite much in the Social Media and how they are adquiring importance on our present time. Maybe the perfect tag is “cyberspace photography”, cause mixes photography and digital art techniques with photo screen-shoot computer devices and synthetic ecosystems.

    • That’s an intriguing idea – I’m still not convinced though that the “subject” dictates what’s being done. If only “real life” can be photographed there are a lot of works that need to be renamed. But I’m still thinking. :)

      • Totally agree :), for me stills being photography while it uses photography techniques.

        We can call it virtual or cyberspace or online photography, or many other similar tags, just to help to classify it better (as nature, landscape, vintage… photography), but without forgueting that is photography.

      • Oh that makes very good sense. :)

  15. I was thinking too that CG art has the same issue… 3D editor apps (as Maya, 3D Max or Blender) use photography techniques to do an image capture of an artwork.

    Maybe it’s eassy to understand if we compare it with animation and machinima moovies.

    Other thing is if the material used (here apps) to do this kind of photography are enough evolved or not…

  16. I totally agree with Scarp. Sure, I’d love to have different films to choose, lenses to change, and if you can find out who I need to kill to bring real aperture and shutter control to Second Life, I’ll organize a hit squad. But that doesn’t make what I do anything less than real photography nor should different tools change what you call yourself. You are a photographer, Honour. You are also a technician (tweaking in Photoshop or the like is similar to working in a darkroom) and an artist (taking liberties beyond tweaking is artistry). I’d also say you are a professional. Not in the sense that you get paid, but that you follow (knowingly or not) the standards and ethics of the field. Keep up the good work.

    On a side note … its fun to see that a day or so after you visit a place tons of other bloggers suddenly discovered the same location as if they were the first, almost down to framing the same shots. Add to your titles “Trailblazer.”

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