News and culture through the lens of Southern California.
Hosted by
Arts & Entertainment

How a conflict photographer documented a war against zombies

Ashley Gilbertson took in game photographs in
Ashley Gilbertson took in game photographs in "The Last of Us."
Ashley Gilbertson/TIME

Listen to story

Download this story 2MB

Ashley Gilbertson has been embedded as a photographer in conflict zones such as Iraq, Afghanistan and Kosovo. For his latest assignment for Time, he embedded himself in the video game "The Last of Us," taking pictures of the action sequences with the game's photo mode.  

"The Last of Us"

The game is an action/adventure survival zombie horror video game that saw Gilbertson experiencing some of the same feelings that he had when in conflict zones in real life. 

"You know, the more I immersed myself in this game, the more... I hate to admit this, but the more I freaked out," Gilbertson says.

Gilbertson said that reaction came from the game's realistic graphics and the amount of gratuitous violence that accurately represented plenty of the things that he'd seen in real life. Despite that, Gilberston says:

"You can go through a small city environment and perpetrate a massacre where you've killed hundreds of people and come out of that completely unscathed without any emotional reaction... That's where I really... had an interesting realization while I was playing it. You know, my job as a photographer isn't to graphically represent, you know, in a beautiful manner, all of these things that I see around me, it's to emotionally represent that."

To hear our interview with Gilbertson, click on "Listen Now" above.