Indian photographer Arko Datto is a digital explorer, a photographic sociologist, and a cowboy of the finest pampas: that of the wild, wild west of the world wide web. In his work Cybersex, Datto attempts to define and expand upon what he calls “virtual photography.” It is beyond the curatorial endeavors of the likes of “Google Street Views” and other collections of pre-existing images.
This genre of photography is not new as far as “found work” is concerned, but it is new in Datto’s case in the sense that he, along with the participation of this particular cybersex community, are creating the photographs in real time, the exception to old notions being that Datto’s subjects cannot see him when he is “taking” photographs of them. They are captured digitally via screen shot, though Datto is indeed “with” the subjects. We recently spoke with him about the project.
Do you think this is an inevitable route for contemporary photography to go?
“Virtual photography is one of the most important routes that contemporary photography needs to explore, amongst a myriad of other possibilities that are opening up. The Internet is a vast mine of resources and artists have only started tapping into it photographically in the past couple of years. In my explorations on Cybersex, the frame is decided upon by my subjects, but I get to select the moment.
“The grammar is different with cyber photography. The code of ethics is new. The role of this genre of photography must be to confront questions on the shifting set of values in the digital age. With Cybersex, I aim to directly pose questions on the debate of public/private, the role of technology in our lives, sexuality in the digital age, democratization of the medium and subversion of hierarchies. These are amongst a host of other important questions that could/should be addressed by virtual photography.”
There is something so sweet and innocent about some of these images—a beautiful juxtaposition of “sexily-waiting” is how I’m working it around in my head—of what could so easily be portrayed in a “tawdry” or “seedy” fashion. How did you arrive at this point of view?
“I have quite frankly never been into the sex part of the project. I have been fascinated by the characters that inhabit this space in Cyber-world and their interactions with an anonymous world via Internet. The fact that this vast body of information is at your disposal means that you—or anybody else—can do whatever they want to do with it. Which is why coming up with a distinct point of view is paramount. This is one aspect of virtual photography that fascinates me.
“Also, ANYBODY can partake in this genre of art. You do not need to have expensive or rare cameras or fly off to exotic locales to do this. The sheer democratization, not only of your subject space, but also of those that (can) create art is fascinating. I am personally bothered by the fact that the physical presence of the photographer always influences the image he/she makes. The Cyber-world allows for photography where the photographer can take a backseat. In Cybersex, my subjects were not aware of the fact that I was documenting them, although ironically, they are visible for the entire world to see/capture. I gained a deep sense of familiarity with a lot of my subjects, even though they have been unaware of my presence. A sort of “cyber-affection.”