Hair GIFs Cinemagraphs Are Making Headlines Again

by Paddy Johnson on April 27, 2011 · 12 comments Opinion

Bad ideas never die. Following The Atlantic’s profile on Jamie Beck’s incredible single-handed transformation of GIFs into “a respected art form” (pretty girl’s hair + wind = art), the Daily Mail has found other hair models to feature. Dubbed “cinemagraphs”, writer Daniel Bates (who, notably, is not an art writer – the Mail doesn’t have those) says these new GIFs “take ‘stills’ to the next level”. As I mentioned the other day, the underlying assumption here is that photography needs to be legitimated by cinema, as do GIFs.

Bates adds a few other images to the ever-growing pool of image files that animate a small portion of a photograph and cribs my favorite Beck quote from the Atlantic:

‘There’s movement in everything and by capturing that plus the great things about a still photograph you get to experience what a video has to offer without the time commitment a video requires.’

You know what else offers all the great the things a still photograph has to offer without the time commitment of a video? A short video. I can see where the future is heading though. Homer Simpson cried because five seconds was too long to wait for his microwave to cook his food. It’s only a matter of time before GIFs become too time consuming to watch!

That the conversation should be so vacant grates, largely because there are actual art references the above GIF evokes that have not been named. Richard Estes’s photorealist reflection paintings immediately come to mind, as does Olafur Eliasson’s Innen Stadt Aussen and even Roy Lichtenstein’s Mirror series. This particular GIF is pretty basic relative to those artists, but it’s worth mentioning that it belongs to a well-established genre of art making that isn’t defined solely by medium, but rather subject matter. What do reflections tell us about how we see the world? Can they change what and how we see? How critical is the role of representation in these works?  I know it’s setting a low bar, but while I don’t think it’s essential for mainstream media to ask these questions, I wish they would at least attempt to identify the subject matter of a few of them. Not every story needs to be a trend or innovation set to change the world as we know it.



Wiley Wiggins April 27, 2011 at 6:36 pm

I love that something that was started by kids on tumblr, trying to make their gifs of shots from movies smaller so they would stay animated in the dashboard (replacing areas in the video with a still and only animating a few elements) is being sucked up and lamified to such an extent. By the time something gets called art or given its own marketing term, it’s time to move on.

Michael Manning April 27, 2011 at 6:42 pm
Anonymous April 27, 2011 at 9:23 pm

self promo from GucciSoFlosy.
In response to a question about her methods, Beck recently said, “An animated .gif is usually a sequence of stills pulled from video, animated art, or other imagery that is repurposed into a .gif. What we do is different because it’s a traditional still photograph with a moment living within it. For us it’s less about the .gif format — that’s just the vessel by which it’s best to deliver them on the web, although the limitations of the format have been very influential on the visual style of our images.” But as my remix shows, there really isn’t any difference between an animated .gif and her “cinemagrpahs”. Her images still consist of a sequence of stills pulled from video, its just harder to see with all that hi-fi gloss over it. Turn the fidelity down to nothing, and you’ve got something worth looking at.

Kamilah Gill April 27, 2011 at 8:16 pm

It looks like maybe you’ve finally found the Thomas Kinkade of animated GIF art? Or are there others? Nice response, Michael. That made me LOL.

SC April 27, 2011 at 8:35 pm

I’d be interested to hear what you think of David Claerbout’s work.

Jennifer Chan April 28, 2011 at 6:51 am

This feels like an occasion of the public celebrating a newly-identified-but-alreadymade artifact. (Like identifying/reifying the iPad as an intermediate mobile device between the computer, e-reader and smartphone when the tablet had existed for years already). Cinemagraphs are really gifs. Cinemagraphs are really gifs.

I’m not exactly sure what the grievance is and wonder why I (and also experienced giffers are so resistant. It sort of goes to show how conservative we’ve become despite free distribution and open participation. If Takeshi Murata can data mosh and so can I, why can’t Kanye West use it?
and tumblr is somewhat of a “mass” technology anyway…

Net artists complain that net aesthetics are marginal but when something like this is rearticulatedin pop/high culture it becomes less “cool” and subversive I guess?

Info April 28, 2011 at 3:03 pm

“Thomas Kinkade of animated GIF art” lol. yep super creepy.

Aekiskel April 28, 2011 at 4:13 pm

these are really nice gifs. i am sure there are others out there but i wouldn’t have known until now. i should go look instead of being so negative about art. eh?

collin April 28, 2011 at 8:23 pm

David Crawford has been doing his Stop Motion Studies for a long time. And they’re much more interesting.

Revulú May 3, 2011 at 12:58 pm

‘actual art references’ LOL!

nothing worse than velvet-rope guarding, VIP-club filtering artsy hipsters posing as experts

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