University: Year 3... and beyond!

Now that summer is in full swing, my time as a student is coming to a close (for now at least). Over the past three years I have been working my way through a BA (Hons) in Photography and last week we had out final graduate show. This year I have worked on several projects and my dissertation which will culminate in graduation later next month!

In the first half of the year I worked on my minor project and my dissertation. Since year 1 I have had an interest in the virtual world and its relation to the field of photography. My minor project continued this trend as I focused on the non-place, edge-lands and landscape within the virtual.

"‘Invisible Walls’ is a project of two parts, culminating in two sets of images focus on the abandoned environment within and the restrictive nature of the virtual game space.

The project will be split into two halves, the first is a set of black and white images that are derived from the virtual and displayed via the analogue. The images focus on the ‘neglected environment’ which, within the virtual world acts as a decorative barrier to the user. Employing visual cues from the real and imagined, these scenes incorporate destruction, decay and neglect to visually fool the user into believing they are within the world they have entered. However, these scenes are non-interactive and merely serve as window dressing, creating the illusion of a wider world. These places serve as the edge lands and non-places within the chosen virtual world.

The second set serves as an exploratory piece set within the virtual. This part of the project also documents the restricted areas that are imposed upon the user within virtual environments, however it is via the use of the topographical format that the imagery is delivered. With the ability to be near limitless in scope, many virtual environments are restrained in terms of their size and employ visual trickery to give the impression that they are larger and more detailed than they really are. This part of the project documents these false doorways and entrances formed into a coherent topographic photographic collection compiled of 100 individual images."

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The next think I had to work on was my dissertation which had the overly pretentious title of ''The Emergence of 'in-game- photography: The validity of visual art produced via the photographic process within the virtual environment.' This was one of the major parts of my final year and I was glad to have gotten it out of the way in the first half!

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After that was done we had our major project to work on. For this I decided to continue my work within the virtual, this time producing another two part project that focused on the living aspects of the virtual. These were the people and the flora.

"VR)Ography is a dual part project that examines, documents and archives two ‘living’ aspects of the virtual world. The two parts focused upon within this project are the representation of the human form and the representation of the natural world.

Within virtual worlds, the representation of nature is often ignored or side-lined. This is often due to the representation of nature being of little consequence to the mechanics of play, or they utilised merely as set dressing that is only briefly in play. Within ‘Herbarium Simulacrum’ I have embarked upon a botanical documentative journey into the virtual and the real, collecting digital and physical samples from each realm. I have combined the two, highlighting the nature and beauty of both worlds. The addition of the real within this project serves to tie the virtual into the reality it is derived from."

"(VR)Ography is a dual part project that examines, documents and archives two ‘living’ aspects of the virtual world. The two parts focused upon within this project are the representation of the human form and the representation of the natural world.

Within virtual worlds, the human form is often misrepresented or represented poorly, this is usually due to the uncanny valley effect, or the lack of development into the scripting and AI of the background NPC. Within ‘People of the Virtual World’ I have explored the virtual environment and documented the human representations that resided within. By embarking upon this project, I have explored the humanity of the virtual, documenting through portraiture the non-player characters that populate the digital world. Along with the portraits I have constructed excerpts of text that create an emotional tie to the viewer and the NPCs depicted, thus humanising the simulation."

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This project was as you might suspect my most in depth that I have embarked upon during my time at the University of Brighton and my development file illustrates this. I found myself researching a much wider array of references and going a lot deeper into each. The written part of this project was over 42,000 words in length. I can only apologise to those who had to read through it to mark the work haha.

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After the work was complete it was time to prepare for our degree show. We all pitched in with the prep for the show and I decided to opt for designing the catalogue as I have a bit of an interest in graphic design. The process of collecting all of the content for the book was rather intense as we were very limited with time, but the process was fun and it improved my illustrator capabilities no end! The book started out as a stapled together scrappy draft and after refining the design and getting it professionally printed by Bristol based printers Taylor Brothers Ltd we ended up with a lovely catalogue to archive and remember the work of the class of 2018. 

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And here is the work in installation at the Grand Parade gallery in the heart of Brighton. The show came to an end on the 10th June but not to worry! I am continuing my [VR]Ography work on my website and on Instagram: www.tomsimmonds.com/memoriesofadigitalworld | @vr.ography

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With the focus less on the academic work now I am switching my focus back to the fashion/editorial/portraiture work I have been doing in the past. This week I had my first shoot in quite some time! I met up with the lovely Bethan Wright in London after not shooting together since 2014! We created some photography magic but more to come in a later blog post! In the mean time here is a sneaky peek from the back of the camera. :)

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