Although the rise of VR is making it seem like it's a new canvas for artists, virtual worlds like Second Life have been attracting photographers, filmmakers, digital artists and musicians since it first opened in June of 2003. Photography, in particular, has become a fascinating art form in Second Life.
Melusina Parkin (her SL name) has been an active virtual photographer since 2008. I came across her work on Facebook and was entranced. The spare, minimal photos reminded me of Andrew Wyeth paintings. And I found her choice of virtual world locations to be fascinating. After spending time on her Flickr page where many of her photo sets are archived, I was very interested in talking to her about her ideas and work habits.
I've created a short video of selected photos from Melusina Parkin which you can view above. She was kind enough to answer my questions over the course of a week. This interview has been divided into two parts, of which this is Part 2. The text is only slightly edited for clarity.
Interview With Virtual Photographer: Melusina Parkin (Part Two)
Renderosity Magazine: I really enjoy talking with artists because real ones (not the "I'm an artist" ones) have unique views of the world and when I talk with them, I feel like my own view is expanding from just talking with them.
Excuse me if I've already asked this, but what is it about minimalism that attracts you. I know I first became excited about the style when I saw Klee paintings at a gallery. Then when I saw several Beckett plays. What got you to creative in this style?
Melusina Parkin: Hello Ricky. I try to do it following the points you stated:
I tend to make concept photos, that's express something through an image, not simply describe a piece of reality. Concept are deep structures and they are simple, clear and clean. Minimalist architecture has been my first passion and SL is a good place to find it: that taste is very widespread, spaces are huge, building tools and prims number limits are the main reason that take creators to minimal choices. Simple buildings or interiors, lonely landscapes, insulated objects, small details are the subject I prefer to shoot.
I shoot everywhere I see anything attracting and noteworthy 'cause their quality, empathy with my feelings, or aestethic impressiveness. So, since I explore a lot, 'cause my curiosity, and in the past I was busy in works that have taken me to a lot of different destinations, I have a huge archive (more than 20,000 photos) on which I can relay.
The first step is choosing: I keep my archive distinguishing first between documental photos (for keeping memory of places) and actual "art" photos.
Another way of working is following a project. I state a theme and I collect images on that, both shooting them and selecting them from my archives. Sometimes my projects starts from zero: so I look for interesting and relevant places through blogs or the SL Destination guide, I explore them and shot my pictures. Perusing my archive, even of bad or simply documental photos, is like working in a goldmine for identifying a theme: all my shoots come from an impression, a suggestion I got at the time I shot them
Although I take a lot of care when I shot, derending objects that don't fit my way of seeing the subject (this is a great opportunity of SL!), looking for the "right" light and color shades, and allthough I shot often many photo of the same subject, changing light or framing, my images need to be improved by a careful work on PS: modifying colors (usually too bright in SL), filtering, cropping them to enhance details or to exclude details that make images heavy and crowded...
Then I build my archives identifying themes. My favorite themes are vintage, city and city decay, loneliness, geometries. Minimalist rules apply to all these themes, maybe except vintage.
My aim is building series of 5-8 photos expressing a concept. They enhance their meaning each others. So I choose a theme, and I gather photos that share their looks as to colors, framing, light. When I identify a theme and I check I haven't enough images, I go shooting new photos to complete the series.
I like how you've developed a method that works for you. What application do you use in SL to take the photos
Melusina Parkin: Shooting in SL is basically easy: viewers have a dedicated button to take photos: you set resolution and file type, then hit it. Before this you can use a built in function called Windlight, that allows a lot of settings for light, shadows and so... it has also some preset settings you can apply to the image and you see on the screen the result.
Last question, what advice would you give a photographer who wants to start shooting in SL?
Melusina Parkin: Advice to start shooting in SL: first, explore this virtual world as much as possible; then, look at the many Flickr pages of SL photographer and take inspiration and places' knowledge. State a theme, make a project for your photos, choosing a kind of photography (landscape, portrait, urban life and so...), keep a photo archive in good order.
When you have time and a bit of money, there are many photography courses. Among them a good one is hold by the Visionaire Photo Institute, where outstanding photographers teach their "secrets" in a very friendly and useful way.
Do you have anything else you'd like to add before we close the interview?
Melusina Parkin: I want to say that all of us photographers owe a lot to the wonderful creators of SL: their skills and their passion allow us to enjoy an entire world, fascinating, surprising and amazing. Although I love the fantasy of many creators of original, surreal environments, my thoughts go to those of them who recreate in the virtual world what they love, admire or simply see of their RL world. Through their creations I can travel to different places, and understanding how people perceive their own reality. I learned a lot about other countries and places and about what people love and hate of them. Of course, as a photographer I represent their creations according to my point of view, but their suggestion contribute to shape and refine my gaze.
A big thanks to all of them, then!