Great Chapparal by Adam Thwaites (All Rights Reserved)
Great Chapparal by Adam Thwaites (by permission of the artist)

The state of Andreas may look suspiciously like California, but actually it’s the fictional landscape of Grand Theft Auto. I’m not a gamer and I’ve never played GTA but I’m intrigued by a new Flickr group started by landscape photographer Phil Rose. Called ‘Landscape photographers of Los Santos and Blaine County’, it features only landscape photographs taken inside the game. Rose describes it as:

A home for photographs taken by photographers in Grand Theft Auto V. GTA V has so many opportunities for landscape photography in all weathers and times of day that it seems like this is a good idea.

These images are a gift for anyone interested in technobiophilia in games. The landscapes have a patina of graphic design which reminds you that they’re grown from pixels rather than soil, but the vantage points from which they’re taken absolutely feel like the photographer was physically there next to that tree or beneath that sky. And some are very atmospheric. I especially enjoyed Adam Thwaites’ work such as Great Chapparal (above). He told me that he has been playing GTA since the very first version of the game and he can’t believe how far Rockstar Games have developed the amazing virtual worlds that they offer. “GTA V is a truly living and breathing world,” he wrote, “created with so much depth and attention to detail, that it now even enables this kind of virtual landscape photography. I love how a game based on crime can, on the other hand, offer an opportunity for creativity and the appreciation of natural beauty. Nothing beats actually going up into the mountains and breathing the air up there and I’d never want to replace that with technology, but games like this need to be appreciated for what they can offer in their own way too.”

I hope to spend some time this coming winter learning to play a few games so I can experience these kinds of landscapes for myself.