The Unknown Photographer
is a virtual reality project built around hundreds of photos and drawings dating from World War I, found in a deserted house in the Canadian province of Quebec. The project draws us into the heart of the First World War – into the trenches of the memory of an unknown war photographer. The life-size photos are placed in a computer-animated, abstract and surreal landscape while the photographer talks in voice-over about his memories, and how unreliable they are. We viewers
roam this landscape, finding our own way. A steam train thunders past; later, we wander through an endless cemetery. The images and sounds provide an overwhelming experience with a deeper philosophical, poetic level. The Unknown Photographer
asks questions about the role of photography in war: people need to be informed of its horrors, but there’s also a risk of desensitization. If there are too many photos, at some point they all start to look the same, losing their meaning. Doesn’t a drawing represent reality more effectively? The most impressive aspect of this project isn’t the grisly images (nowhere are they really explicit), but the questions these evoke, and the sense of being submerged in the inevitable.