First Person Shooter In the Virtual World: The Work of Thibault Brunet

Thibault Brunet
Thibault Brunet
Pvt. Casey from the series First Person Shooter, 2009

Since 2007 Thibault Brunet has chronicled war-torn landscapes and images of beleaguered soldiers all without leaving the comfort of his home in Lille, France. The artist began documenting the virtual world of video games like “Grand Theft Auto: Vice City,” but instead of photographing the action in the game, we only see the backdrop in which the player moves. “These pictures were taken over the course of my walks in these virtual universes,” Brunet says. “The slow motion of my walks led me to explore the spaces that are usually forgotten by players — the outskirts of barren and industrialized areas.”

The photographs are not traditional images made with a camera, but screen shots of computer renderings that capture landscapes and portraits. When the images are on display in a gallery setting, he frames the work and shows them within thick white mattes that art photographers have used since the inception of the medium, furthering our assumptions and expectations about seeing art photography.

Thibault Brunet

Instillation view from Regeneration 2 at Aperture's Gallery in New York City. Thibault Brunet's work from Vice City, 2008, center.

“These games are inspired by American popular, historical and political culture. They involve getting through missions — murder, blackmail, theft and escape, enemy liquidation, bombing or even the occupation of territories such as Afghanistan. I chose to explore these games against the natural will of my avatars, the one that the usual player would use. I chose to do it as a photographer.”

When viewed together the photographs raise questions about escapism and society’s consumption of violent imagery as entertainment. The images are a work in progress and featured in Aperture’s new book Regeneration 2: Tomorrows Photographers Today.

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