I Want That Job

Imagined unexplored land

I got a job ad recently that really caught my eye. The position was for an “Intermediate Unreal Technical Artist”. My first reaction was: I want that job! But my scatterbrained mind spun up a lot of questions.


The “unreal” part immediately got me. Yes, I know that Unreal is a 3D animation platform. It looks quite capable. You don’t have to write me about that. But that is not the point. Just the surreal nature of the job description gave me a laugh.

Depending on where I am mentally at any time, I like to take flights into the unreal. I never guessed it could be a paying job.

The coincidence I could not ignore is that I have been working on a project I call Terra Incognita. It envisions imaginary, unexplored regions of our world. In doing it, I had to become an unreal artist, for real.

It turned out a little more difficult than I thought to create imaginary, unreal worlds that look real. I want you to look at my images in this project and tell yourself that it could be an undiscovered part of the world. Creating a fake Sci Fi movie scene was not interesting to me.


The “intermediate” adjective added to the surreal situation. The possibility that there might be quantifiable levels of unreal-ness in our artistic abilities jumped out at me.

Well, I knew that I wanted my images to seem real, not fantastic or unworldly. But what would an intermediate level unreal artist be capable of doing? Would I have to be an advanced unreal artist to look real? Or does an advanced unreal artist only do obviously fantastic scenes? Would a beginner unreal artist “fail” in his unreality and create a real seeming scene? Should I be striving towards beginner or advanced level unreal art?

Inquiring minds want to know. I never knew the questions lurking here.


And it says they are seeking a “technical” unreal artist. Again, the surreal nature of the words caught me. If there is technical unreal then is there non-technical real or non-technical unreal or technical real?

Technical real is probably what most photographers do all the time. After all, we use high resolution lenses on great high mega pixel sensors to capture huge amounts of detail. Photography is inherently a technical art. We want our images to be more real than real.

The job posters seem to be seeking someone to create unreal scenes with a high degree of technical precision. Although I know what they mean, it still sounds absurd. Would non-technical unreal be like old 1950’s Sci Fi movies with the rubber creatures and terrible sets? Actually, what they did back then was the highest degree of technical unreality they could do before computer graphics.

Maybe non-technical reality would be street photography shot with a cheap plastic film camera. Terrible technical quality but real scenes. There seems to be a niche market for that with people who value alternate processes.


And they are calling the position one for an artist. Really? Maybe in that industry, which I suspect is movies, that is true by their standards. In my experience, when someone is hired to create visual work as specified by an employer, I would call them a designer or an illustrator.

A Pixar animated film or something like Despicable Me is a great achievement. I know there are large teams of animators and character illustrators and colorists and groups doing hair and fur and fabric. Others doing lighting and other effects. And many other teams doing software and asset management and other coordination roles. It is a large and complex process requiring many people.

I am probably projecting too much of my values on this, but I believe an artist creates work he conceives and in his own style. That does not sound like an employee. I am not in any way minimizing productions like an animated movie, just questioning if the roles are what I would call an artist.

The whole package

So, could I be an “Intermediate Unreal Technical Artist”? Probably not. As much as I like the sound of it, I do. not understand it. And besides, they are looking for someone to work for them. When I retired I vowed I would not be an employee again unless I was desperate. Been there; done that. I want to only do what I choose to do and on my own terms.

Thank you for following this strange diversion. It is quite a sidetrack from what I normally write. But as I mentioned, the coincidence with a project I am working on now was too much to ignore.

In addition, it fits in with a long term theme I keep bringing up about whether or not photography is about reality. To me, it is not any more. Unless an image is presented as documentary, it is not to be believed as reality. And with the rapid encroachment of AI, I suggest we be very skeptical of all images, even if they claim documentary status.

So maybe all photography is an unreal art. Maybe the job description I saw is redundant.

Today’s image

The image today is from the series Terra Incognita that I mentioned above. It tries to represent unexplored areas of our world. Maybe it just has not been seen before. Maybe it only exists in our imagination. Either way, consider yourself a modern day explorer flying over this never before seen vista.

I want to hear your comments! Let’s talk!