Photographer Alex John Beck visited GLX conference centre in Philadelphia to capture the modified hardware of gaming enthusiasts for his series Case Modders. More than 500 people brought their souped-up machines to join the local area network (LAN) set-up in a convention centre. Like the cars in The Fast and the Furious, each computer is customised for performance, and each has its own distinct aesthetic.
For Case Modders, Alex shot the exterior casing and interior of each computer, took a portrait of the owner and asked them to handwrite the spec of their computer.
“Product design is fascinating, a true marriage of form and function, and when tampered with by individual users there’s a lot to be read into. Cable organisation is a weird, obsessive thing, where a need for order manifests in simple, clean lines, for example,” says Alex. “The cases themselves are just boxes, really, but people fill them with meaning, games, files, pictures etc.This project wouldn’t mean as much to me without showing the people who use them. Handwriting itself is similar: it’s just tool manipulation for expression.”
For Alex, the project is an observation of people and their tools. For lay people, the strange shapes within each case are an abstract diagram of blocks and wires, but the portraits and handwritten notes from the subjects create an intriguing anthropological study, humanising the complex technology. “I like to see people approach the same task from different angles. They’re all playing the same games, using the same input methods (keyboard, mouse), yet each rig is slightly different, just as faces,clothes and handwriting are all pretty much the same yet different in the most instructive ways,” says Alex. “I don’t really consider it complete, this is just one chapter in a long-term study of people and their tools.”