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The Unknown Photographer

An ominous, poetic and virtual odyssey through the trenches of the memory of a photographer from World War I.

The Unknown Photographer is a virtual reality project built around hundreds of photos and drawings dating from World War I, found in a deserted house in the Canadian province of Quebec. The project draws us into the heart of the First World War – into the trenches of the memory of an unknown war photographer. The life-size photos are placed in a computer-animated, abstract and surreal landscape while the photographer talks in voice-over about his memories, and how unreliable they are. We viewers roam this landscape, finding our own way. A steam train thunders past; later, we wander through an endless cemetery. The images and sounds provide an overwhelming experience with a deeper philosophical, poetic level. The Unknown Photographer asks questions about the role of photography in war: people need to be informed of its horrors, but there’s also a risk of desensitization. If there are too many photos, at some point they all start to look the same, losing their meaning. Doesn’t a drawing represent reality more effectively? The most impressive aspect of this project isn’t the grisly images (nowhere are they really explicit), but the questions these evoke, and the sense of being submerged in the inevitable.

Selected for IDFA 2015 and eligible for the IDFA DocLab Award for Digital Storytelling and the IDFA DocLab Award for Immersive Non-Fiction.

Presented as part of the DocLab: Seamless Reality program by IDFA and De Brakke Grond during DocLab Live: VR Cinema Showcase on Tuesday 24 November and as an interactive installation from 19-29 November.

The Unknown Photographer (Trailer) from NFB/marketing on Vimeo.

Project details

Year of development :2015
Created by:Loïc Suty
With:NFB & Turbulent

Available formats