It’s a rare honor to talk to an artist about their craft; it’s
even rarer to talk to one whose art involves gaming. I am therefore thrilled to
introduce you to Jonathan
Abensur, the Creative Director at Ludographer.
A Ludographer is someone who through images, documents life
within virtual games. The team at Ludographer strives
to create an exhibiting platform for many of the images captured while
exploring in-game worlds. They seek to capture images in ways that highlight
the inner life, depth, and artistry depicted by the increasingly complex and
visually arresting worlds we find in video games.
Join me for an absolutely fascinating talk with Jonathan Abensur about video games, art and
“Scatter” from Mass Effect 3 by Jonathan Abensur
your website, one can clearly see your love and dedication for the medium of
video games. Where did this passion originate from?
“Even though I think passions are masterless,
double-edged motivators. I think it’s fair to say that both Craig and I are at
our core, passion-bound by all things visual and digitally game related.
Without getting too heavy, I suppose a reason for this would be that since a
young age we treated and respected virtual settings as mechanisms for escapism:
a channel by which something unreal
could be formed, discovered, shared and through that have a place in the world.
I guess it also seemed amazing just how much freedom could be experienced in
such restrictive environments.
Unfortunately, we came from a generation that
understood games to be as limited as they were inconsequential. Thankfully however,
games have become ever ingrained into our culture; their structure has become
the subject of countless studies (with indicative results I’ll add) and
cultural reference. So over the years, as our appreciation of the
visual, the transporting and the experiential shifted to the conceptual, the
cultural and to some extent, the philosophical. We arrived at Ludographer.”
“Digital Whisp” from Deus Ex: Human Revolution
video games photographer requires tremendous patience and skill. What is it
about video games that inspire such dedication from you?
“In a Nutshell, Ludographer´s linchpin is the
acceptance that virtual environments are as much an indication of life’s values
as the world itself and vice-versa. This might seem a bold statement to some,
yet in both instances we can see evidence of structure, rules, limitations and a
collective perception of what goes and what doesn’t. Understandably, having
this opinion justifies much of our commitment.
Furthermore, the vast array of information across
platforms, genres and timelines - not to mention a plethora of personal experience being registered in these worlds - is a
collective resource so vast that it seems wasteful not to offer outlets for it.
To this end, we chose to conjoin our parallel passion and experience on
photography to act as this outlet. We are bridging the process of image capture
to that of play and interaction.
Although we have just fairly recently begun our work,
we are excited and motivated by the many individuals out there who appreciate
the product of what we do and would likewise enjoy the opportunity to utilize
some of their gaming experiences in a manner that reflects their personal
relationship to it.”
“Dragons Eye” from Dear Esther by Craig
opinion, what is the importance of video games photography within the industry?
“When Craig and I were first discussing the idea of Ludographer, we understood that as a
general concept, being a game photographer is much like being a wildlife,
travel, or journal photographer. In essence: you wander the environment that
you are placed in and either hunt for a premeditated moment and subject matter,
or respond to the stimulants around you; cataloging your perspective as you
Commercially speaking, applications for the former are, to extent, already in place: in-game images can
be seen from editorial articles to advertisement campaigns. Of course, this
does not mean there isn’t more to be developed in this regard; on the contrary
it still remains fairly unknown as a process in itself.
In terms of a more experimental Indie culture: applying the values
and practice of photography on a digital plane is an act that bridges the
virtual with the real. It is a creative
practice in its own accord; with the process of image capture becoming the
looking glass that one utilizes in order to tap in to the gaming context as a
material to be explored and not just a finite end product.
This facet of in-game photography in particular is important
because it offers players not only the opportunity to visually highlight their
personal experiences and perspectives, but also to express a critique through a
Ultimately, I would state in-game image capture to be an
alternative form of play (hence our name - Ludographer) and we believe that an interesting
movement has the potential to emerge from this: one that gives much freedom and
agency to the players."
“Aurora Nights” from The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim by Craig McInarlin
your opinion on video games as an art form?
"That’s a big question! I think to answer that, one has
to get their hands dirty and tackle the definition of what an art form is.
Personally, I think that when we are referring to Art
there are two primary camps: one that treats Art primarily as the process to
mastery and one that prioritizes the redefinition of meaning. Whatever your
inclination, however, what remains consistent is that every Art form needs
pre-standing material from which to be developed – conceptual or tangible.
With that logic in mind, I think it’s fair to say that
video games are primarily (and commercially) an Art form of mastery: with
several highly talented and regularly practiced individuals merging practical
skill and thought, to conceive dynamic worlds of structure, aesthetics and
On the other hand, the Indie sector is often seen
taking on the risk of embracing a slippery Art form that seeks to re-contextualize
the meaning of the material. Creating games, which might not hold mastery, (in
a canonical sense) at their core, but more so the question. With its “aimless”
sense of direction, Dear Esther is a
clear and beautiful example of this: a self-referential game that touches
profoundly on the notions of gaming, existence and purpose.
Alas, because the interest in commercial success is
understandably prime in most cases. Experimental game environments don’t often
make light of day. Luckily, necessity breeds creativity and so we have faith
that we will see more and more innovative work finding its way to the masses
through various channels. Obsidian Entertainment’s ingenious approach to fund
their more avant-garde developments such as Project
Eternity, through player donations, is a glowing example of this. It is an
insight that will hopefully encourage other projects to follow suit.”
“Hollows” from Spec Ops: The Line by Craig McInarlin
have any advice for gamers regarding taking better in game screenshots?
A question we get a lot regarding Ludographer is:
where the difference lies in the process of our image captures in comparison to
anyone else's ability to press the print-screen key. For which the answer will
usually be: what is the difference between a professional photographer and an
amateur - or in fact anyone else with a camera?
It’s fair to say both are rightfully in the business
of capturing images, but ultimately one who dedicates their time and resources
to perfecting the process will naturally produce work of higher quality and
deeper insight: they will be consistent and achieve what they need not by
chance or by emotion, but by design. Most people’s notion of a professional
falls in to that framework.
So on that note, we would start by suggesting
prospective ludographers (yep, I said that) to learn the basics of photography
itself. Composition, intention, perspective is universal elements to image
capture and portrayal. Knowing them is the difference between an image
reflecting its intention and losing itself to ambiguity or the banal.
Secondly, we would encourage people to consider the
material that is the game; not only as a concept but also as a program based on
rules and causality. Luckily most games are based on a perception of physics
that reflects our own world. So for example gravity and light do not physically
exist in virtual environments, yet the effects are perceivable, present and
usable. On the flip side, the beauty of games happens to also be their
impartiality to those very rules that hold them together. As such: breaking the
rules also justifies itself as a good use of the material. Incidentally it’s
also a lot of the fun: part and parcel of how a ludographer plays.”
Ludographer’s policy regarding the use of your work?
“How long is a piece of string? It really depends on
what the nature of the usage would be. For most cases, we are content with accreditation for the image and a link to our
website blog. The usage of the work might also depend on whom the image was
originally taken for. As exclusivity is a factor in a commercial environment,
this is something we would have to take into consideration.
By the most part, however, our work is produced with
the intention to be shared. So contacting us on the use of our work will most
likely work out fine. Equally, any feedback on our work or exhibition requests
are always encouraged and more so appreciated.”
I want to thank Jonathan for an extremely interesting and insightful interview and the
Ludographer team for their striking art. I’m always looking forward to seeing
what image they’ve captures next, the worlds they’ve explored and the moments
they’ve immortalized. They kindly allow me to use their work on my blog, and for
this, I am extremely grateful.
Do yourself a favor
and check out their work.
Ludographer: Website| Twitter | Facebook | Flickr
I leave you with one
of my favorite shots from Ludographer.
“Plugged” from Deus Ex: Human Revolution by Jonathan Abensur
Han’s Twitter | Blog