By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Mar 09, 2022 at 11:29 AM

Ever think about how Super Mario might view Milwaukee?

Wonder no more thanks to the 8bitMKE Twitter and Instagram feeds, which have 8-bit images of Brew City shot with a Gameboy Camera.

Self-professed video game nerd Josh Arter launched the feed in 2017. He said the project of capturing these stylized low-res Milwaukee photos grows from a marriage of his love for both video games and photography.

Josh Arter in a self-portrait.

“I've always been taking photos, and I've always been a video game nerd, so this was just the perfect combination,” he tells me. “Years ago when Flickr was still a thing, I randomly came across Gameboy Camera photos and instantly fell in love. $30 later on eBay, I had my very own Gameboy Camera!”

The cameras, Arter says, were released in 1998 and are as low-tech as you might expect. It can only hold about 30 pictures before you have to export or trash them.

Despite its paucity of memory, Arter says the Gameboy camera has some other features, such as time lape, panoramas, trick lenses, mini games and a music sequencer.


Among Arter’s 8-bit subjects are the expected – the Calatrava, the Hoan Bridge, City Hall – and the less so, like the circular parking ramp on Plankinton Avenue and delivery trucks being unloaded.

“The first set I took was while biking around the east side/lakefront when I lived off Brady Street. This was around 2017 or so,” Arter says. “When the camera came out, Nintendo also released a printer to go with it, so you could print your shots out on what is basically receipt paper.

“There were also some pretty hack-y ways to get the photos dumped to your computer, and after many failed attempts, my first 30 shots sat on my Gameboy Camera in my closet for a few years. One day I randomly started searching again for ways to get the photos onto my laptop and found this guy who was building these little custom 3D printed devices that basically emulated the Gameboy Printer function and saved images straight to an SD card.”

With that setup running, Arter went out to start shooting Milwaukee, and, he says, other locations – like Mexico and other U.S. cities, but he went to Petra but forgot his camera! – and he hasn’t stopped.


“I've always had Milwaukee-centric projects that fizzled out over time, but this one is special I think because it attracts a large swath of people: Milwaukeeans, photographers, video gamers, pixel artists, Nintendo fans,” he says. ”Not only is it a very unique way to capture Milwaukee, it also brings a sense of nostalgia.

“When I'm out shooting, sometimes people will stop me and ask if I'm just playing Gameboy on the corner. And it's like, ‘no, I'm actually taking some pictures.’ Most reactions are along the lines of "No way! With a Gameboy?!" and once people try it out for themselves, it's hard not to fall in love.”

The allure of the low-tech photo reminds me of the Lomography craze that recurs every few years and other “toy camera” photography. There’s something about the grittiness that draws us in, especially in a high-res, high-tech age.


“I think what I appreciate most is how this project has introduced me to a ton of creatives across the city,” says Arter. “Other photographers, artists, musicians. I've got a setup that lets me do live installations through a Super Nintendo so people can see themselves all pixelated on a screen. I've shot music videos with it.

It's just been an awesome way to meet new people and make new friends. It's also been an amazing experience meeting other Gameboy Camera fanatics who are doing way more creative things than me.”

Arter has NFTs listed here, if you're interested.

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.

He has be heard on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories, in that station's most popular podcast.