Paola Mills: behind the avatar in Second Life

UTSA Artspace: Paola Mills

Currently open to visitors at the University of Texas, San Antonio ArtSpace gallery in Second Life is Behind the Avatar, an exhibition of the photography of Paola Mills. To be honest, it’s an exhibition I almost completely missed, the notification having escaped my attention back in September – so my apologies to Paola.

This is a small, but emotive display of work, focused on avatar studies, and which – as the title of the exhibition suggests – offers a glimpse of the person behind the camera and the avatar.

Hello I’m Angela Paola and in pixel version I’m Paola Mills. 

I signed up to Second life in 2007, after hearing a lot of Linden Lab in the media, I did not like the name Second Life, but its potential as a platform to use, because I am passionate about video games since I was a girl. Reading an article in the American Journal, I realised that Second Life was something else, it is a place used to pleasure doing business, others see it as financial speculation, for other people it’s just a 3D chat. But soon it became a niche for lovers of creativity.

– Paola Mills, introducing Behind the Avatar

UTSA Artspace: Paola Mills

Paola notes that while she isn’t a professional photographer, she always carries a small camera with her when out and about in the physical world, taking pictures of the people and things that capture her attention. In entering Second Life, she found a way to expand her photographic creativity, using the viewer’s snapshot capability to capture moods, as well as moments, and give lasting expression to the emotions she might feel at any given time.

It is precisely this emotional amplification of mood and emotion that is represented in the 12 images offered at the ArtSpace Gallery. All 12 are deeply expressive and / or representative of a mood – contemplation, reflection, hurt, fascination, and more, with the nature of the form used – human or robotic – used to present the mood and, with at least some of the images, offer up an additional narrative.

Paola notes that unlike many SL photographers, she makes minimal use of post-process editing. while she states this is more down to an inability to use such applications (when it comes to PhotoShop, I know exactly how she feels!), rather than a conscious decision. However, rather than detracting from her work, I would actually say this adds to it, drawing the audience into each of the images as they are: moments (and emotions) caught in that instant of time, without later embellishment or alteration.

UTSA Artspace: Paola Mills

I’m not sure when this exhibition ends, so I would recommend seeing it sooner rather than later, just in case.

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