Community Spotlight: Q&A with MistyMalorne

If you’re an admirer of the Rockstar virtual photography community and a regular viewer of our weekly Snap Saturdays, then you’ll be no stranger to GANGSTANCE lieutenant MistyMalorne.

Not long ago, Misty conducted a Q&A interview with Ryan/PoachiiN for VP magazine ThePhotoMode. Due to a change in plans and circumstances, the interview will unfortunately not be published by them, so Misty approached us to see if we’d like to share it with the rest of the community on her behalf. With permission, we of course agreed, as it’d be a shame for such an interesting and insightful interview to never see the light of day!

We’re big fans of Misty’s work in GTA Online; she manages to capture characters, vehicles, and the environment with an aesthetic that I can only describe as “Los Santos summer vibes”, and that’s why she is someone we frequently share on GTANet. I’ve scattered some recent shots throughout this article so you can see what we’re actually talking about, and you can follow Misty on Twitter to keep up with her creations.

Without further ado…

All credits go to Ryan/PoachiiN / ThePhotoMode for the questions, and MistyMalorne for the answers.

What is your main drive for taking shots in games?

MistyMalorne: I am a huge fan of film, and VP is the next best thing, or is it better? I am wondering at this point as the graphics improve. I think my main drive currently is to document and add a kind of cinematography or real edge to the time spent online in games.
I see it as a VR dimension where people can be represented by avatars close or further from their real self and are able to live out extensions of themselves or fantasies as well as the gaming bread and butter such as missions and quests.
I see the gaming dimension similar to the real world, and can be captured and artistically processed in the same way. From documenting all the way across the spectrum to abstract art.
Above all of this it’s a medium to express ideas or feelings, I was here gaming and socialising so why not express and convey ideas or stories via this medium?

Who in the Virtual Photography community inspires you and why?

MistyMalorne: I think anyone who is using games to express themselves, creating pictures that might really change the course of the viewer’s mind, especially those that cleverly use vanilla versions of games in imaginative ways to create poses or express emotions. 

I find the most inspiring type of shot is one that transcends the gaming world and becomes a vital piece of art and imagery. Anyone could come along, gamer or not, and find it appealing or inspiring. Pictures that look realistic because of content, composition and editing choices, rather than just graphics performance appeal to me. 

One individual that is notable for me is Amby, I find almost all of his pictures breath-taking.

Mel, (@ I_gurly) inspired me a while ago with her Red Dead Online pictures. They showed me that a postcard, if you will, of beauty and reflection could be made from a single shot. 

Gira, the crew leader of Gangstance, and his efforts to create a virtual car meet crew and scene which he has captured very well. This creates a whole arena for art to be created, like a stage set to perform street culture based, videos and photography.

Basi, also in Gangstance, was one of the first Virtual Photographers I saw applying a realistic, subtle look to his pictures. Giving the impression they were taken in the real world, drenched in a retro style. This enlightened me to the fact that very stylish imagery could be captured in games like GTA V. 

Chy is my all time favourite Virtual Photographer and I have always found the motion in hair and life he captures from game characters truly breathtaking. He was definitely one of the first VPs to illustrate to me that this is more than “taking pictures in a game, this is art… as real as any art”. 

Lately, I have been inspired by the likes of many including Lana Melodi who has a dark, gothic nature with all of the different games she captures. It looks great, dark and brooding but what struck me the most is that it really fits the bill with what I said about VP being a medium that can transcend the gaming world. The imagery looks very real in places and certainly stands up to real life photography in my opinion. Again, I do love finding a VP that I have to double take on, and asking myself, “is that a painting or a real photo?”, especially if the game doesn’t have a dedicated photo mode and it is taken in an online mode with little control. This feat impresses me. 

I’m also inspired by the entire crew of Aesthetic Motion, which I find is very artist focused. Drew Barnes, with his very documentarian approach to VP supporting the idea of a visual diary of an online life. 

I think a lot of Spiggy with his editing skills, Ryan with information and ideas on the future of VP as a whole and its growing credibility as an artform, Evey with her breathtaking work, she is a great Virtual Photographer and of course, Huldera, Julie, Empi and Cratoz for the same reasons along with their love and support. Vis leading the crew bringing us all together is a feat in itself. 

Also shout out to Kirsty Cloud, and the crew supporting Virtual Photographers and the R* Community. Their warmth and Saturday features of my work have picked me up and given me some belief in times of doubt.

Do you have any advice for people who might be considering taking shots for the first time?

MistyMalorne: Relax, take your time in games and embrace the mistakes and gaming accidents, they can often lead to great pictures. You might be aiming for one thing, but stumble upon something else worthwhile in the process. Don’t be afraid to work fluidly in this manner and embrace those changes.

Think outside the box and don’t be afraid to “break” the game a little to achieve a shot or pose, use your imagination. If you’re uninspired, just play and have fun, you’ll soon come across an opportunity if you have VP in the back of your mind. 

Also another good way is to look at films, and other artforms, gain some inspiration and then see if you can replicate the image or cinematography in a game. You might not realise this precisely, but you might get equally good pictures out of it with that kind of aim. You might even better the original idea! Believe. 

Keep practising. It’s the best way to improve, practice all aspects including editing. You will soon start to get used to what works and what doesn’t and you’ll get better. Think in four distinct checks: content, what is it I am taking? composition, how is the best to take this shot and express the mood or information and frame it well. Lighting, how is the scene lit and can it be more interesting? Finish, the editing that brings out or further expresses the picture’s mood and aesthetic. 

As you may be taking pictures on the fly you might not be “setting up” shots in this way, but you can still look for moments that make these four distinctive checks light up, and when they do light up for you, that is a good time to take the snap. This recognition of a “good shot” is a skill I have honed. Never underestimate those pictures that you might want to throw away, sometimes they can be saved in the edit and become your best, so be careful in what you write off or keep! 

Walk around in the game, especially in GTA V or Red Dead Redemption where driving or riding horses can be used to essentially complete a recce. Take time and you will find some great hidden gems and picture opportunities I promise you. 

Above all be original, do you, and find your own style. There are already enough copycats and vibrations of an echo chamber in the Virtual Photography scene, and having said that, what I respect the most about other Virtual Photographers (especially in the online portion where there is often character design), is the courage to do their own thing unapologetically.

Share one of your fave shots and describe it

MistyMalorne: Finalist, Fourth Focus VP AWARDS.. Abstract Cat. ‘Love Rising’.

This is one of my favourite shots due to many reasons. One, it’s an unmodded, vanilla shot from GTA Online. Secondly, it occurred when my friends and I were casually playing and evolved into a real moment in which I felt loved up about being with them, we were a unit going in together and enjoying hanging out, this culminated into the shot here. 

The four people pictured are some of my favourite people I’ve met online via VP and gaming.

After I created the shot in R* Editor, taking an unconventional angle I felt very happy I’d caught a nice picture. I’d adjusted things so that the divers look like they are almost bubbles in a glass floating up. Also, in the edit, I did some colour work to enhance the aesthetic, as it was a little flat and dull, being so deep in the ocean. I added the pink hue to represent love and a warm aura rising up with us. 

As a whole I think it ticks the boxes, however I was a bit hesitant to post it as I felt it wouldn’t be accepted well and might seem too unconventional because the new ‘The Contract’ update had just been added to GTAV and the feeds were full of this new awaited content. I just figured this odd picture would get lost in the static. However, I posted it and immediately it did very well, this was a great surprise. This really boosted my confidence to work outside of the box a bit more and perhaps do more abstract type works. It then went onto become a finalist in The Fourth Focus’ VP AWARDS, which really drove this feeling and outlook further. This just goes to show that sometimes you should have more faith in your work – To think that I almost didn’t post it!

Tell us about the music videos you make and how they illustrate GTA culture 

MistyMalorne: I like to edit music video-esque cuts. Yes, I think they are a perfect way to represent the already heavily music-orientated game that is GTA V. I have almost been using the platform solely to practice and hone editing, so that one day I can work on real music videos. Although, I totally value the game-based edits, and what is possible with so little effort compared to a real world shoot that would require broader planning and expenditure. We walk and drive in a virtual LA, a place where many music videos and films are made, so it makes perfect sense to virtually represent this. I like Rockstar’s style and how it can be shaped into a graphic novel aesthetic, or a cartoon starring all your online friends. I am surprised there isn’t more of it, however there are some great “music” videos created in GTAV R*Editor out there that can be found on YouTube. 

I love to create videos with my friends in them, because it seems to bring them joy seeing their characters up there in such a way. I just want to continually improve on this since that is my gift to people.

Should Virtual Photography be considered an artform? 

MistyMalorne: Yes, 100%, it is an artform. Anything that can allow an artist to touch other people’s hearts and minds, or express an idea via this means should be considered an artform. It can be learned, it can be mastered, and it can move people, if that doesn’t describe an artform, what does?

When it comes to capturing the VR online world of games, for example GTAOnline or Red Dead Online, and you’re taking these real moments and transforming them, you’re not only capturing a memory, but creating a piece of art from it. VP is one of our most interesting and greatest artforms to come along in a while and a real progression of visual arts. 

The scope of possibility in this medium, the scale of manipulation that can be attained, establishes a situation in which the possibilities and outcomes are really quite endless. 

I see VP as a really unique evolution of photos and film. The unique ability within the R* editor to record a moment and not just play back a film of a limited sequence, but replay the entire moment in full and navigate it wholly speaks to this. 

Post-recorded cinematography being impossible in the real world, the future and improvement of graphics and motion in games, in my eyes, sets out to create a very interesting platform which extends our capabilities within real-world cinematography. 

With the ever improving facial expression of nuances and micro details like dilating pupils and twitching, it’s only going to become even more possible to express a wider range of visuals and feelings. 

Thanks for the opportunity,