Conflict photographer Ashley Gilbertson recently embedded himself in the PlayStation 4 video game The Last of Us Remastered on assignment from TIME. Gilbertson, who worked from 2002 to 2008 in Iraq as a photographer, took a series of stills using the in-game Photo Mode introduced in the PlayStation 4 version of the game. The Last of Us, originally released in 2013 on the PlayStation 3, is a post-apocalyptic action-adventure video game by developer Naughty Dog.
My approach with The Last of Us Remastered was to enter each situation, or level, and work the scene until I was confident I’d gotten the best photograph I could before moving on. It’s the same way I work in real life. Yet, I found it was more difficult to do in a virtual reality because I was expected to fight my way through these levels to get to the next situations. That involved chopping off people’s heads, shooting them point blank in the face or throwing bombs near them. If I failed, I’d have my neck bitten, with blood exploding from my jugular in some pseudo-sexual zombie move, forcing me to restart the level.
images via Ashley Gilbertson for TIME