Pascal Greco originally embarked on this project as a continuation of his 2013 series No Cliché, which sought to uncover the lesser photographed parts of Iceland. In 2020 he was set to return to the country to capture the bits of Icelandic architecture that most tourists ignore, but was forced to change his plans.
Stuck in lockdown, Greco bought himself a PlayStaion 4 and a copy of Death Stranding – the 2019 video game made by designer and producer Hideo Kojima. The game is set in an apparently apocalyptic landscape, full of volcanoes, rock formations, snow-capped peaks and waterfalls that reminded the photographer of Iceland. A photographic mode – introduced in 2020 after much clamour from fans – disappears the game’s characters so the player can take pictures.
“I examined this mode, took out my Polaroid, as it was possible to use it in the game, which was great because part of my photographic work is in Polaroid, and began capturing the places I would have seen if I had gone to Iceland,” says Greco, in a Q&A included in Place(s). “It was a strange experience – I began walking around in the digital landscape, feeling somehow as if I was exploring Iceland’s dramatic scenery while stuck at home, in Switzerland, in lockdown.”
In-game photography is a growing field, particularly as game graphics come ever closer to real life, and players explore vast worlds that are designed to encourage wandering. A recent Call of Duty campaign, for example, saw real-life war photographers capture images inside the game, using a virtual camera.
Questions remain around whether in-game photographers are ‘real’ photographers, or just players invited into a ready-made world – which Greco addresses in the book, in a conversation with curator Marco de Mutiis.
Mutiis compares the practice to street photography, saying, “The photographers didn’t create the objects, the people, the architecture. An open mind is essential – it’s a conversation, and that’s what makes it great.”