The Unknown Photographer is a journey through hundreds of World War I photographs discovered in an abandoned barn in Morin Heights, north of Montreal, Canada.
Right from the start, the project was driven by a desire to offer a deeply intimate experience—we wanted the viewer to feel the same emotion that drew us in the first time we looked at the photographs. We tried to understand the images, to study them, to find out who the man behind the album was. Was he the first Canadian war correspondent? Was he on the front lines? Why did he keep this album?
We did research in Canada, the United States and France. Despite several months of hard work and careful examination, we were unable to piece together the full story of the man behind the photographs.
We decided to imagine what his story might have been while cultivating the mystery that surrounded the album and shrouded his life. The Unknown Photographer is a foray into the memories of a man remembering the war. Bursts of images emerge, vanish and reappear based on the pathway the viewer chooses to take, paving the way for a poetic journey into an impossible dream. The photographs overlap in surreal architectural compositions—a dream in which one can reflect upon the power of images and the ravages of war, whether past, present or future.
Wearing an Oculus headset and guided by a narrator voicing the thoughts of the photographer, whose unseen presence permeates the experience, the viewer becomes immersed in a parallel reality where one’s physical sensations and imagination are greatly heightened.
The Unknown Photographer offers a virtual reality experience unlike any other—a surreal plunge into the fragmented memories of a First World War photographer. This documentary/fiction hybrid invites participants to take a stroll through a museum, in a vivid dreamscape filled with stunning images accompanied by the photographer’s thoughts. The 3D universe is composed of otherworldly structures—improbable architecture and impossible sculptures—as well as authentic historical photographs that seem both intangible and omnipresent. Participants encounter captivating allegorical characters on their poetic voyage through this peculiar world, and are invited to question the power of images and the ravages of war in times past and present.
The photographs used in this project were taken from a photo album discovered in an abandoned barn in Morin-Heights, in the Laurentians region north of Montreal, Canada. Bearing witness to a moment in the history of humanity, they are both the inspiration and the heart of The Unknown Photographer.
The Unknown Photographer is a surreal plunge into the fragmented memories of a First World War photographer. A documentary/fiction hybrid unfolding in virtual reality, the project invites participants to take a stroll through a museum—a vivid dreamscape whose images are set in a 3D universe of otherworldly structures, improbable architecture, and impossible sculptures. Participants meet captivating allegorical characters while walking through a world that invites them to question the power of images and the ravages of war in times past and present.
The photographs used in this project were taken from a photo album discovered in an abandoned barn north of Montreal, Canada.
This documentary/fiction hybrid takes participants on a journey through a virtual reality filled with the fragmented memories of a First World War photographer. This surrealistic stroll through a museum is set in a 3D universe featuring otherworldly structures and encounters with allegorical characters. A unique experience that invites viewers to question the power of images and the ravages of war.
A virtual reality journey into the fragmented memories of a First World War photographer.
Julian Casey (English voice)
François Papineau (French voice)