Melusina Parkin is, as I’ve oft noted, one of the foremost photographer-artists in Second Life. Her work is always rich in content, style and interpretation, always offering the most unique views of our virtual world through composition, angle and focus, here exhibitions carefully crafted around a given theme. This is once again the case with her latest exhibition Ordinary People, which has just opened across all three exhibition halls at Vibes Gallery, curated by Eviana Robbiani, presenting three dozen images captured from across Second Life that brings the uniqueness of candid photography to the platform in both images and subjects. As such, this is, among all of Melusina’s unique exhibitions, one of the most captivating.
Candid photography is the technique of capturing an image of one or more persons without creating the appearance they have been specifically posed; whether or not the subject(s) in the photograph are aware of or consent to the image being captured is entirely secondary to the image itself (although if they are entirely unaware of the photograph having been taken, it might be referred to as “secret photography”). Candid images can be taken indoors or out, and in the latter regard share a strong overlap with street photography (which may not be focused on streets, despite its name, but can often feature people in natural situations within street settings).
In truth, and in regards to secret and street photography, Ordinary People contains a mix of both within its overall theme of candid photography, offering images of people going about their lives, seemingly oblivious to the presence to the camera. However, these is more to be found here; for these are not images from the physical world, be have been captured entirely within Second Life, and their subjects are not avatars but what we might refer to as static NPCs – non-player characters.
Like avatars, they are made of pixels; like statues and mannequins, they don’t talk nor move. They could be seen as objects, as a part of décor, but at a closer look they are revealed to have expression, and their still poses show activity…
– Melusina Parkin
NPCs occupy a unique place in Second Life. they are neither avatar nor statute, as Melusina notes; and while they are not “alive” in the manner in which we occupy our avatars, nor are the entirely devoid of life; again, as Melu points out, they carry facial expressions that given them a certain depth of life, and their presence within a region or setting, whilst frozen and in the manner of décor, actually brings life to the environment in which they are found.
Thus, the images in this exhibition are very uniquely layered in their composition and presentation. Within two of the gallery halls, the images are presented in black-and-white, and in the third, they are offered in warm colours. The former carry within them the sensation of everyday life: people coming and going from work, out and about sight-seeing, and so on. The latter suggest calmer, warmer moments: taking the time to read the paper, a walk through a garden with a loved one, sitting on a bench and (perhaps) feeding the birds: their colour giving the impression of calm and easy-going conversation.
Then there is Melu’s always considered use of angle, focus and cropping, which here leads to a rich sense of life waiting to be found in many of the images – such as those featuring crowds crossing the street, or the suggestion of activities going on just outside of a frame in which we only see the legs or hands of the subjects, rather than their entire bodies. On top of this comes the care that clearly went into creating each image, from the selection (or creation) of the location through the selection of the characters and their placement, the lighting and the shot itself – all of which gives each of the pieces event more life.
And this sense of life continues within the gallery halls themselves, where many of the characters featured in the pictures have returned to witness the results of Melu’s work. All of which makes for a truly engaging exhibition.
- Vibes Gallery (Isola Del Giglio, rated: Adult)