Photography Blogs are boring. Hopefully this one isn't.
I’m a photographer first and businessman second. Actually, I’m a businessman about forty-eighth, placed just after “occasional consumer of water biscuits”. The reason I became a photographer wasn’t so I could become the next BIG BUX MCGEE: I became a photographer because I wanted to do something for a living I gave a shit about. My first big break combined photography and videogames: the two largest turds I happen to give. The shoot was a commission for the delightful GamesTM Magazine. You could say that I had gotten off my arse and done a business out of it. That’s three references to faecal matter in the first paragraph. Time to move on.
One morning, I decided to speculatively fire off an email to GamesTM, asking whether they would like to hire me for an interview shoot. I did so because I noticed that there was a complete absence of professional photography within games journalism. The only professional shots you ever see in magazines or online publications are corporate headshots of industry heads, supplied upon request by PR. These were no doubt taken by some perfectly competent but uncaring headshot photographer who, rightly so, saw it as just another gig. Any interviews you see are accompanied by either these stock photos or something taken on the journalist’s phone. It baffled me that nobody had picked up on this. Nevertheless, I was not in the slightest bit hopeful that I would even get a response to my request to shoot for them, and certainly didn’t think I’d ‘ found my niche ‘. An email pinged back the very next day, with an offer to photograph a Suda51 interview. I’ve been shooting with GamesTM ever since, and they are still my favourite shoots by a million miles.
These days, that speculative email has grown into, for want of a less ridiculous word, a mission. I continue to work with GamesTM, but I’ve expanded. My photo-documentary project with Hello Games (which I am aiming to release in the first half of this year) is part of this expansion. These days, we are spoiled for choice when it comes to quality videogame journalism (the faint whiff of Cool Original flavoured snacks excepted). There are many excellent, platform-independent publications, both in print and online, filled with great writers who are eager to write about games in an intelligent, grown up way. Their work helps to legitimise videogame culture simply by being enthusiastic, well written and mature.
It’s this kind of responsible journalism that acts as a counterpoint to the less savoury elements of videogame culture, such as the embarrassing, childish marketing stunt recently perpetrated by Deep Silver and their deeply troubling, boob-corpse mantlepiece ornament. There now exists a clear distinction between ‘us’ and, as the magnificent Andi Hamilton over at Midnight Resistance puts it, “awful, entitled, screaming man babies, who are easily led to make purchases by the promise of seeing the edge of an asari tit.”
So it’s safe to say that there’s more than a handful of us that buy into videogame culture and don’t think we should feel embarrassed to discuss them in public (a point explored quite some time back by Charlie Brooker). All of this leads me to ask:
If you look in any major publication covering an activity or subject deemed worthy of spending any amount of time on, you will find accompanying photography. Magazine supplements for all the major newspapers exhibit front cover portraiture of actors, singers, authors, musicians, directors, politicians, TV personalities and artists. Events surrounding all these different forms of media and entertainment are bolstered and enriched by professional documentary photography. Behind the scenes photodocs of film sets, TV shows and bands on tour are all covered in detail. Even gardening magazines procure professional shots of flora and cover local flower shows (not to belittle gardening as a hobby – you know how violent those lot can get when their pastime is challenged).
So why has gaming been largely ignored? I want to see photojournalism and portraiture flooding the industry: I want it to help further establish a positive image for gaming. Obviously I’m pretty sold on the power of photography, what with it being my job and that, but I really believe in its ability to do videogame culture a world of good.
I watched a bit of This Morning the other day (breakfast TV is one of the perils of working from home) and they had a feature on violent videogames being sold to underage kids. The heart of the feature itself was perfectly reasonable and something worth discussing. Sadly, it wasn’t long before the usual casual demonising began as Lorraine Kelly started talking about school shootings and how they’re probably instigated by people playing Halo. All of this was, of course, backed up by what appeared to be a phalanx of frowning mums, and not a single informed ‘gaming expert’ to be seen.
With my Hello Games photodocumentary, I am doing something that hasn’t really been done before – I’m looking at people who make games, and saying “hey, look – human beings make games and they’re normal people with working human organs!”. I think part of this mistrust of videogames comes from the fact that their creators are seldom seen, save for a few figureheads, so the mainstream media get this mental image of a malevolent, sentient office block churning out pure, tangible evil through satanic, industrial play-doh tubes like a scene from Pink Floyd’s The Wall when, in actual fact, that only happens at EA’s head office.
I’d like to think I’m doing my part to help change that, but I want to see more people get on board with the idea. It may not have escaped your attention that this article is incredibly self-serving, but I am just one man, like totally a solitary, standalone dude, dude: I cannot take on all the work on my own. Surely I’m not the only photographer who cares about and knows a bit about gaming? We should all get involved and start bringing photography to every single area of videogame culture we can: it’s a yawning chasm just waiting to be filled with photographs.