#Phonar – Robbie Cooper Reflection.

  • Wanted to be a photojournalist at 22.
  • Went to East Africa to do research in post offices.
  • Took pictures of the civil war and famine.
  • Immediately working after leaving college – Sunday Times Newspaper.
  • Wanted to get into magazines, started pitching ideas.
  • Budget to go somewhere, whatever you needed to do the job.
  • Didn’t have any idea about how to do a big project.
  • Corporal portrait, got talking about video games.
  • Keeping in touch with his kids through a game.
  • Talked about all the normal stuff you would with your Dad.
  • Really wanted to do something on it.
  • Woke up with the idea of comparing a real person with the avatar.
  • What motivates people to do it? Something about them, their character, their identity.
  • Contacted Playstation and sent a fax. 3 hours later they called.
  • Given money to do the project.
  • Sponsorship and funding because of the strength of the idea.
  • Settled into the idea of telling a story.
  • Didn’t work for this kind of project.
  • Pointed in the direction of the work by Bernd and Hilla Becher.
  • Similarity of vision.
  • Made him question how he was taking pictures and what he was trying to communicate.
  • Image of a young boy, showing how a virtual world offers things he will never be able to have in the real world.
  • Story alongside each image.
  • Creating a persona.
  • Military taken to virtual worlds in a big way.
  • Train for different situations and re-enactments to help with PTS.
  • Socialising in a context where people don’t know how you are.
  • Around 2002, weren’t so many personal computers so people played in Internet cafes.
  • Would talk to someone but they wouldn’t look away from their screen.
  • Interactions with screens and how much we look at them.
  • Adapt the technique of people responding to screen media but have them looking at the viewer.
  • First thing in 2008 – ‘Immersion’.
  • Started using red camera – hybrid solution.
  • Shooting video which can lift stills from.
  • Ran in NY Times magazine, dealing with print and online.
  • Build up a project with enormous scale.
  • Keep doing it for years.
  • Also recorded stills of young children.
  • Name, age, location, watching, date.
  • Like a survey.
  • Hates the idea of a campaign.
  • Got to be everything, can’t be just about people becoming shut off in their ‘lonely worlds playing video games’.
  • After 5 years, got to do older people.
  • Huge range of subjects to cover.
  • Keep people on their toes about what they are looking at.
  • Some is entertainment, some are real things.
  • Age and expression is close but watching completely different things.
  • Dark elements so hard to find funding.
  • Speaking about mental health, subject is always on their own.
  • Being asked by a friend.
  • Important for them to know that face.
  • Would ask the friend to ask questions for him.
  • Made him think differently about how to work.
  • Step back from the process of holding a camera and pressing a button.
  • Had to be slightly detached from the workings.
  • Looking at porn, lack of intimacy.
  • Our relationship with images and the limitations.
  • With this way of shooting, what would happen if you strip away the sex and only have the intimacy?
  • Removed from the process.
  • With everything, always trying to create an environment which didn’t feel like a shoot.
  • Did the shoot in an environment like a home, got someone to cook all day for smells to add to that homely feeling.
  • Decided to do kick-starter project, collaborating with other people.
  • Build an app recording people using their iPhones.
  • Encourage people to submit their own stories on using media.
  • Learning how to programme.
  • One removed from the real mechanics of what’s happening when computers were introduced.
  • Metaphors in photoshop eg. dodge and burn is an analogue process.

After being introduced to Robbie Cooper in second year for the digital media module, I was interested to hear his talk and how he got started. I found a significant point in his story of when he contacted Playstation and they told him to send a fax. With initial doubts that he wouldn’t hear anything back from them, he was contacted 3 hours later. This pointed out to me the importance of always trying something despite having doubts you may not succeed, you never know what could happen. By contacting Playstation he was given money to start his project and continued to receive sponsorship and funding due to the strength of his idea. Initially I was only aware of the recordings he had done of children playing video games, however through this I learnt the various directions in which he took his work. Robbie is always looking for fresh ideas to keep people engaged and I like how he has kept the running theme of immersion but it explored it in so many different ways, such as through subject and ages.

It was really interesting to see the ‘portraits’ of people next to their avatar which they had created. By creating this character it allows people to become immersed in a world where they can be whoever they want to be – no one knows who they are. Virtual gaming becomes so powerful when it offers things to those who will never be able to do them in the real world and helping create re-enactments to help with PTS. I think these simple comparisons of the portrait of the player and their avatar next to them allows you to understand how they see themselves or how they would like to be portrayed. It’s a really interesting sight into their virtual world. I did consider how this leads us to question trust on the Internet as people are not being true, however I don’t think in a gaming world this is an issue because it is not real and everyone is there to enjoy themselves. I found it interesting how Robbie spoke of when personal computers weren’t so big so many people would play virtual games in internet cafes, and if he tried to have a conversation with them they would never look away from the screen. This simply shows how involved a person becomes in a game, almost as if they detach away from reality and start living in this world instead, like an escape. I think this is reflected really well in both the immersion videos and stills where we see people either playing games, watching something entertaining or an event in real life and how they respond. It stood out to me how Robbie hated the idea of a campaign and forcing an idea onto somebody. He is passionate about his work and believed it had ‘got to be everything’, not just about people becoming shut off in their lonely worlds playing video games. He didn’t want to tell that basic story, it delves so much deeper than this and displays the connection we have with these virtual realities.

Something which stood out to me was regardless of what kind of project he was shooting, he would always try to make the environment as suitable as possible. When getting people to tell their stories of mental illness, he would make sure they were alone in a room talking to a friendly face on the screen. He highlighted the importance of it being someone they knew in order for them to feel comfortable. With regards to his work with immersion in porn, he created a homely set up for them to feel like they were at a friends. Rather than just thinking of an idea, getting people involved and shooting he made sure it was a comfortable experience for them and I think this is really important.

The talk from Robbie Cooper can be watched here.


~ by victoriasimkissphotography on October 11, 2014.

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