16 October 2011

Gracie Kendal's 1000+ Avatars

Last year a Second Life artist, Gracie Kendal, embarked on a project called 1000 Avatars: portraits of a thousand avatars, all shot in the same surroundings, and all from the back. The human behind Gracie, Kristine Schomaker, published these as a printed volume in real life, but they're also available for viewing in the sim Coyote, and they're a remarkable sight. Having some time ago reached her goal, she decided to keep going, and as of this evening hit 1,613 portraits.

I stopped by today to be included, and then I hung around for quite a while, watching. It's an interesting situation: You've got one opportunity to have your avatar photographed—so who are you, and how would you like to appear? Gracie will select one photo of you (you pose however you would like, she shoots and then selects whichever photo she likes). The guy right before me came out with two huge guns firing, one in each hand (we covered our ears, and my partner Lexi quipped, "No one uses silencers anymore these days"); I danced a dance called Kiss My Buttons (pic below, click to zoom in); and then Lexi did a one-armed handstand for her photo. It takes maybe around ten minutes for each person, and although you might have to wait a bit it's fascinating to observe. Some people need a little coaching from the very friendly Gracie, and others come in knowing exactly how they want to show themselves. Many of the photos, of course, aren't of "human" avatars—there's even one of a plywood prim.

Looking at the photos on the walls is mesmerizing. (Mine's on the west wall near the northwest corner and is of course the best of the 1,613 haha.)

Gracie is interested in trying to capture the essence of each person in those brief ten minutes and does a remarkable job. She's written much about avatar identity both on her own blog, My Life as an Avatar, and on the project blog, 1000+ Avatars, which also includes a history of the project, an artist statement, and links to some of the many articles and interviews that have been published about Gracie and her work.

Everyone is welcome to be included. You don't need an appointment, but Gracie's shooting on an irregular basis, so the best thing to do is to join her mailing list by touching the subscriber board at the project landing point. There's also a donation box, so please chip in if you can. Oh, and if you want a printed image in real life you can even buy one from her: just head here, and you even get your portrait from the front too!

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