Sep 12, 2011

TREND | Cinemagraphs

From iwdrm (2011), Source: Dr. Strangelove or: How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, Cinemagraph, Stanley Kubrick, (1964).

The two artists known as cinemagraph's innovators, Jamie Beck and Kevin Burg describe the cinemagraph as, " image that contains within itself a living moment that allows a glimpse of time to be experienced and preserved endlessly."
Technically, cinemagraphs are still photographs in which minute and repetitive movement occurs.  These artworks are not exactly a photo, but not quite a video either.  While these GIFs (Graphics Interchange Format) are restricted by the technology's limitations of a 256-color palette and 1 transparent color, artists working with the format are managing to create some truly moving images.  When asked by Fast Company's Co. Design why they chose the strict format, the pair replied:
 "The format has interesting capabilities as well as some severe limitations which are very influential in the visual style of our images... GIF is very basic, highly linkable through outlets such as Tumblr, and integrated into the web.  Flash certainly has more capabilities but since our images are at their heart a traditional photograph, a format like .gif makes the most sense."
Jamie Beck and Kevin Burg, Meet Me at the Bar, Cinemagraph, 2011.
Some question the legitimacy of this new development in photography--arguing that animated GIFs are not art at all, and belong on websites such as 4chan; a site where teenagers have created and shared crudely animated GIFs for years.  However, Jamie Beck and Kevin Burg feel passionately about the social relevance of these works, and are exploring opportunities for gallery exhibits of their new medium. From their website:
"Beck and Burg named the process "Cinemagraphs" for their cinematic quality while maintaining at its soul the principles of traditional photography. Launched virally through social media platforms Twitter and Tumblr, both the style of imagery and terminology has become a class of its own. The creative duo are looking forward to exploring future display technologies for gallery settings as well as pushing this new art form and communication process as the best way to capture a moment in time or create a true living portrait in our digital age while embracing our need to communicate visually and share instantly."

Marvin, Static, Cinemagraph, 2011.
While researching cinemagraphs I stumbled upon this eerie piece of artwork by: Marvin.  I was unable to find any information on the artist, but this Poltergeist-esque cinemagraph brought back some of the feelings I had when I first watched that terrifying film as a young boy--and after all, isn't that the point?  Don't we, as artists, create art to invoke a feeling of some kind in ourselves or our viewers?  While people may argue that pieces like this are no more art than a movie clip from YouTube--I see a well composed, well executed photograph with animated visual elements that add greatly to the story of the work.

Chase Lewandowski, More Life at the Laundromat, Cinemagraph, 2011.
Regardless of how I feel about cinemagraphs, it will be interesting to see how the medium plays out in the art world over the next few years.  Will they be accepted as a "legitimate" form of art, with gallery exhibits sporting digital displays?  Or perhaps they will find their home on social-networking websites, as the new medium of memes, and forever be deemed "Harry Potter photos."

-Brenden Freedman


  1. Brenden,

    You should look into e-ink. It's basically cinemagraphs on paper so they are actually objects like real photographs. The technology isn't perfect yet since it still needs a battery attached and things like that, but I'm really excited to see how this idea shakes things up once they can get batteries small enough to be embed into paper and they eventually become affordable. Here's a link for a youtube video...

    They have a website as well.

    -Sara Marie Miller

  2. Brenden,
    When I read the title of your post I was unfamiliar with what a Cinemagraph was, but after reading your entry I have realized that I am very familiar with Cinemagraphs from social networking websites. I like how you started your blog by explaining what a Cinemagraph is making it seem like it is already an accepted art form, but towards the end it becomes apparent that this is a newer technique and not quite legitimatized yet. This formatting was not only informative but also persuasive that Cinemagrphs should be considered art and hung in a gallery. I really like the images you posted with your blog to show a larger range of what a Cinemagraph might look like. I am interested in finding out what Cinemagraphs will become in the future.
    -Melissa Weatherall