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Friday, May 7, 2021

The Second Photography Fair: Photography in A Virtual World Fynnyus Resident Reporting

The Second Photography Fair has been up and running for about a week and will be open until May 14. The fair offers products, workshops, and entertainment of all kinds. For beginners or professionals, this unique event is a chance to see the latest in photography from vendors far and wide.

With this wonderful photography event happening, I thought I’d take a stab at an impossibly huge question: What is the nature of photography in a virtual setting? I take on this question fully knowing that it may have so many answers as to be uniquely answered by any person who has used the photography function in SL. Whatever you think of photography in SL, the popularity it holds in SL cannot be denied. Indeed, it seems that photography is a captivating activity for many in Second Life. As evidence of its popularity, a quick Google search using the keywords, “photography in Second Life” yields 2,540,000,000 results. True that not all of the Google sites would necessarily be relevant for this topic, but many would be. Anyway, back to my original question .

This question took me back to the origins of photography itself, which started in 1839. Since then, it seems everything under the sun has been photographed. Our insatiable desire to photograph the world around us taught new ways of seeing the world, gave a visual grammar for understanding visual images, and a code of ethics for producing and distributing them. Photography altered and enlarged our ideas of what is worth looking at and what we have the right to observe. It has been much the same for the history of photography in SL. 
Photography in the virtual setting makes us create art, memories, evidence that something happened, or monetary transactions. Indeed, the photographic features of Second Life is compelling in and of themselves and in-world events like the Second Photography Fair, help to illustrate the extensive nature of the virtual world photography phenomenon. 
I spoke with one of the primary creators of The Second Photography Fair, and Editor of FOCUS magazine, Angela Thespian, about her thoughts of photography in SL. Her passion for photography in SL is evident. Here is our edited conversation: 

ME:  What does photography in SL mean to you?

ANGELA: I'm not the best person to ask (actually she is the best person to ask), well . . . let me try . . . photography in SL, to me, is more than just an image that people create. I think that SL photography is an opportunity for people who don't have an artistic trade like playing music, writing, painting, drawings etc., to express themselves in an artful way. So, from that vantage point, the art means less to me, personally, than the people creating it. Art - in general - is art. There are millions of painters, sculptors, etc. There are very few who are ever recognized. Same in SL - there are so many who have honed their skills and come to fairs like this one to learn to make their art - their self-expression - better. They want to be special and recognized, and recognition is really the highest honor we can give an artist. It's like saying, "We see you and we approve of you and your effort." All human beings have a basic need to belong and to be liked. This is why I have created the magazine in SL too, and the group. The magazine is an honor -- not from me but from the thousands of people who "see" the featured artist and give them approval. What is very interesting to me is that most photographers say they create art for themselves and if other people like it, great, but they don't need others to like it.

ME: Do you think it gives people a new way to see and understand this place?

ANGELA: I think that Second Life is a place for people who are seeking. What we are seeking can be described differently, but basically, we are all human and, if you subscribe to Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, most people have the ability to buy food and have family -- but they are missing the last three needs: friendship, respect from others or esteem, and self-actualization.

So, photography -- especially for the many, many thousands of people who take photos in SL -- photography is an accessible means so be seen, to be appreciated in all of the favs one can get on Flickr, to belong to a community, and to be creative even if a person lacks the ability to be creative in traditional means.

ME: What about the utilitarian features of photography in SL?

ANGELA: I imagine there are those who do want to document their time here. But they could do that with a simple snapshot. They don't have to be "a photographer."

ME: You distinguish between levels of photo-making?

ANGELA: Don't we all? There is a difference between the snapshot your grandmother took of you in your Halloween costume when you were a kid and Ansel Adams.

ME: True.

ANGELA: The utilitarian use that I see in SL photography is psychological. Look at my profile shot . . . I don't need to be smiling, or even be attractive. A utilitarian shot would be like a driver's license. My photo evokes an emotion, a judgment of the kind of person I am. People have said hello to me just from the fact of seeing it. if I had a driver's license photo (though I am also smiling in my DL photo) people may not bother because I don't evoke an emotion. SL photography is great for subjective appreciation of personal memory, or for a new way of fulfilling human psychological needs.

Indeed, photography is a powerful phenomenon in SL, even to the point of saving lives. A Second Life photographer is able to influence and shape their photographs in extreme ways and with more freedom than in the physical world. Likewise, a photograph can shape the photographer and his or her audience in powerful ways—psychological ways. Unusual viewpoints, strange angles, and digital capture methods are easily used to create other-worldly images. Software modifications, scripts, or other settings can change the weather and the light. Similarly, our lives can be changed, sometimes in unusual and wonderful ways by the photographic images created in this virtual world called Second Life. 

So, get your avie to the Photography Fair and explore the many vendor offerings and free gifts, or enjoy one of the many entertainment events going on at any given time of day. Use this landmark to get to the Photography Fair: 




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