Benjamin Pfau Experiments With Technology and Rooted Stereotypes to Create a Fake Narrative

If the artist had not told us, we would have believed that he really was in Rio de Janeiro taking pictures for this project. His images challenge our perception and question the patterns of our gaze.

Rio de Janeiro is often referred to as Cidade Maravilhosa - the marvelous city. A befitting name, as it has captured the imagination of people all over the world.

And it is a place I have never visited in person. The marvellous city that is displayed here is a product of the internet. All photographs in this series are artefacts extracted from on-demand cloud computing services that were available to me during the second COVID-19 pandemic lockdown in Germany in the winter of 2020/2021. These services include Google Maps, Google Street View, various video streaming providers and social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram, as well as StyleGAN2, an algorithm that allows data-driven unconditional generative image modelling. The majority of portraits in this series are either produced or modified through cloud-based generative face modelling.

By applying a veneer that we are accustomed to through the traditional practice of documentary photography, the images are taken out of their original context and presented as a personal essay intending to investigate the truthfulness and general mechanisms of the photographic essay at the current moment and for what is to come.

Words and pictures by Benjamin Pfau


Benjamin Pfau is a German photographer. He explores themes of alienation and isolation by creating extensive photojournals, which are often juxtaposed with poetry and other forms of writing. In recent years his focus has shifted towards dissecting the digital landscape and the study of generative image modelling.  Follow him on Instagram and PhMuseum.


This feature is part of Story of the Week, a selection of relevant projects from our community handpicked by the PhMuseum curators.

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