The Unknown Photographer (French: Le photographe inconnu) is a 2015 Quebec virtual reality work based around found photographs of World War I, co-produced by the digital production agency Turbulent and the National Film Board of Canada's French-language Digital Studio, both located in Montreal. The lead artists on the project were Loïc Suty (director, sound designer, scriptwriter), Osman Zeki (lead developer, 3D modeler) and Claudine Matte (art director). The work was produced by Claire Buffet and Louis-Richard Tremblay, with executive producers Marc Beaudet, Benoit Beauséjour and Hugues Sweeney.
The Unknown Photographer is an immersive experience based around almost 300 photographs of World War I, which Montreal director Philippe Baylaucq had found as a teenager in 1974, in an abandoned house in Morin Heights, north of Montreal. Years later, Baylaucq passed the photos on to a friend, photographer Bertrand Carrière, who used them as the basis for a photo exhibition, Lieux Mêmes, as well as a short documentary, Finding Fletcher Wade Moses. For over 10 years, Carrière had tried to find some trace of what happened to the owner of the photo collection, without success.
The Unknown Photographer's VR experience involves a walk through a kind of "surrealist museum," exploring these World War I photographs. The production offers users three possible narratives, accompanied by spoken word passages on the horrors of war, written by novelist Catherine Mavrikakis, narrated in English by Julian Casey and in French by François Papineau. The experience lasts 20 to as much 50 minutes, depending on the choices users make.
The Unknown Photographer premiered at the Rencontres internationales du documentaire de Montréal on November 13, 2015. It had its U.S. premiere in the New Frontier section of the Sundance Film Festival and its European premiere at International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam.
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