I’ve Seen Things You People Wouldn’t Believe

Ridley Scott’s vision of tomorrow lives on on Instagram with Blade Runner Reality

Blade Runner failed to impress the box office upon its theatrical release, but Ridley Scott’s pulpy vision of the future remains an influential pillar of the science fiction canon. The film’s fusion of technology and urban decay — overseen by ‘visual futurist’ Syd Mead, production designer Lawrence G. Paull, and art director David Snyder — continues to influence fictional dystopian universes today.

Yesterday’s tomorrow is not yet today’s reality, but shades of Blade Runner can be found in the dark corners of cities around the world. Blade Runner Reality is an Instagram account showcasing places where our world intersects with the rain-soaked streets and monolithic architecture of Deckard, Roy Batty, and Rachael.

The two friends behind the account agreed to sit for the Vantage Voight-Kampff machine.

Who are you, where are you, and how did you meet one another?

I’m Ryan Allen (RA). I am currently a PhD student in New York City.

I’m Siddharth Chander (SC), I just moved to DC. I met Ryan when we were both living in the wonderful city of Incheon, South Korea around five years ago.

When did you first see Blade Runner and what was its impact on you?

RA: I remember watching it when I was a kid and not really getting it. But it was one of those movies that seemed like it was on TV all the time, so I was always aware of it. I revisited it in college when I was a bit older and wiser, and I was hooked.

The visuals are just stunning in the film — so much detail. I’m a big believer in practical effects in movies. It has aged really well visually because they didn’t use cheap special effects, building everything instead. I wish more movies were like that these days.

SC: I only saw it for the first time about two years ago, at Ryan’s insistence. I immediately loved it more than any other science fiction movie I had ever seen. I loved the look of the film, the Vangelis score, as well as the film’s themes, and I have to say Rutger Hauer’s performance was a huge part of my loving it so much as well. I think it was my favorite movie I saw that year, I was blown away and watched it a second time within a week.

What was the genesis of Blade Runner Reality?

RA: I went to the Museum of Moving Image in Queens. They had the miniature Tyrell Corporation’s ziggurat used in the film. I was very excited to see it. I had also just joined Instagram, so when I posted my picture from the museum I looked at other Blade Runner hashtag’d photos. I actually just assumed that there would already be an account dedicated to Blade Runner, but there wasn’t. After that, I told Sid that we should start it.

SC: I had been really into photographing NYC on Instagram when Ryan told me about his idea for BRR. I wasn’t sure how we could keep finding photos, but slowly we realized that a lot of our favorite things to photograph could be related back to the movie or its themes, whether it be architecture or interior design or even portraits of people.

Are you stockpiling images to release over time?

RA: We usually try to post one photo a day on an alternating rotation between us. I have a lot of photos that sit on my phone for months before I post them. I also have tons of photos from living in Asia but I try to release them sparingly, as I know they eventually will run out. If I ever move out of the city I still want to be able to make posts.

SC: We’re obsessed with taking photos so we take them every chance we get.

What qualifies as a good submission to the collection?

RA: I usually try to post photos that I would actually like myself. Because we post everyday, we admittedly have a variation of photo quality.

SC: Likewise, I try to keep it simple and make sure I like it first and foremost. It’s very subjective too. Often I think I have a great photo and the reaction is very quiet, and vice versa too.

What cities are best for finding shots that could have been in the movie?

RA: I live in New York and it really is a great place to do this, especially in midtown. But honestly, I really think Asian megacities are the best places to find these shots. Hong Kong today could easily be LA 2019. Ridley Scott has been quoted as saying that the visuals are ‘Hong Kong on a very bad day.’

That being said, it is also cool to see people around the world tag us with their Blade Runner-inspired photos. You can see them all over the world, and even in smaller towns.

SC: Agreed, New York is the best city I can imagine in America for that look, but a lot of Asian cities like Tokyo, Seoul and Shanghai would be seemingly perfect for those kind of shots.

Have many people been submitting their shots? Where is your audience primarily based?

RA: We have done a few re-posts from people that submitted, but not too many. We do get a lot of people who tag us in their photos, from all over the world. I still think the US provides the bulk of the audience, but we’ve heard from people in Japan, Brazil, throughout Europe, and from all over really. Probably the coolest thing that has happened so far was an artist painted a picture from one of our pictures. I was really stunned and honored by that.

SC: Yes, early on the first wave of followers were quite vocal with their support, and they hailed from all over Europe and the US. That was very exciting. I would love to get people more involved in submitting their shots, but so far we haven’t had too much success with that as people tend to send in shots they find online.

Have you heard from anyone who worked on the movie, or anyone who’s involved with the sequel?

RA: Nope, no one yet. I’d love to hear from Syd Mead, though. He was the concept artist for the film and his work is quite inspiring.

SC: Not yet. Some of our followers have mentioned running into Rutger Hauer and talking Blade Runner with him, and he seems very amiable. That would be very cool!

How do you feel about the impending sequel?

RA: While I’m fascinated with the larger world of Blade Runner, I am also apprehensive about the new film. We have been burned on these sequels that have happened years later — Indiana Jones 4, the new Star Wars, Tron, etc. They just seem not to work, from cheap effects and bloated plots to unnecessarily connecting characters/plot points from the originals. Really, not even one single movie like this from the genre has worked so far. I hope I’m wrong, but the track record so far would suggest that we are better off just leaving this world alone.

SC: I also believe it’s tough to replicate the magic of a great movie. Although I don’t think it will match the original I like director Denis Villeneuve and am hoping for good things.

Any other movies you think worth dedicating an Instagram account to?

RA: I’ve joked about doing a “Mob World Reality.” We are both huge Goodfellas fans.

SC: I’m gonna go get the camera, get the camera.

Do you see any potential for turning this project into something outside of Instagram?

RA: It works so well on this medium that I’m not sure how to take it outside of Instagram. I have a couple of half-baked ideas, but nothing concrete yet. I’ve told Sid that once we hit 50,000 followers, then we start thinking of something bigger for the project. Until then, we will probably stick to Instagram.

SC: Personally I just love taking photos and it’s been thrilling hearing from people all over the world. We’ll keep trying to get good photos and put them up and see where that takes us.

All images courtesy of Blade Runner Reality

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