TIME Sent A War Photographer Into The Last Of Us

TIME Sent A War Photographer Into The Last Of Us

Conflict photographers regularly report from war zones and disaster areas. This is tough stuff — creating images of anguish and death and upset, remaining distanced from the events without affecting and influencing them or losing your humanity. For something different, TIME assigned a photographer to catalogue the disaster of The Last Of Us: Remastered.

Image credit: Ashley Gilbertson/TIME

The images that Gilbertson captured for TIME are beautiful, gritty, but at the same time seem almost as if they’re showing off the cinematography of the game itself. That was apparently a struggle throughout the production process, since The Last Of Us‘ camera mode lets a would-be photographer freeze time, choose depth of field, add grain and adjust angle, tweaking everything they need to to get a classic photo every single time.

An additional challenge was that I could make photographs that seemed almost “perfect”. It wasn’t hard to make images that recalled posters for a war film, or that might be used in an advertising campaign for the game itself. It was too clean. The last thing I wanted to do was to advertise the game, so I tried to mess with the photos a little. Put unimportant information in the foreground. Tilt the camera. Pull back too wide. I needed to make the shots imperfect because, I believe, imperfections make photography human.

Another issue was that, as an embedded photographer, Gilbertson was never meant to actually fight or take part in any of the conflicts that she was covering. That stood at odds with the core concept of a video game where you play as the central characters and have to blast your way through hordes of slavering zombies. In the end, the best solution for TIME’s photographer was actually get someone else to play the game and for her to focus purely on the photography.

The whole story is fascinating — it’s definitely worth a read. Of course, if you like the idea of beautiful and captivating images drawn from video games, check out Dead End Thrills. [TIME]