Saatchi Art and Google+ Launched A Stupid Contest for Stupid Software

by Paddy Johnson on April 15, 2014 GIF

From the Motion Photography Contest

From the Motion Photography Contest

First hair GIFs cinemagraphs took the web by storm in 2010. Now “motion photography” is creating new opportunities for makers. According to a press release from the folks at Saatchi Art, Saatchi Gallery and Google+ pimping their “Motion Photography Prize”, “motion photography”, or, “.GIFs”. is an exploding new field. This is news because Google + has added an “auto awesome” feature to their image uploader, which includes a GIFmaker.

The prize gets six finalists featured on Saatchi online, their work in a group exhibition at Saatchi, and a trip for two to go to the opening. One overall winner gets the “trip of a life [sic] with the photographer/filmmaker of his/her choice.” Meh.

As for what this “new creative art form” looks like, the competition comes with several examples of GIFS’ “exciting potential” to “tell your story”: animate your photos of yourself in midair. Show a popsicle melting. Capture flowers coming out of a fish.

Why are these examples all so terrible? Because the actual tool can only add effects to photos that match the predetermined criteria set by Google. Basically, the computer has to recognize your photos as sequential before it animates them, and since the program is automated, the sequential criteria needs to be strict. Otherwise the GIFmaker will auto-awesome groups of photographs users never wanted awesomed.

The whole idea is pretty dumb—most people like to have more control than this over their pictures—and the result is software that has very little use, let alone creative potential. Add to this that entire contest is hosted on Google+, which blocks nudity, sex, and violence, and you’ve got a competition that can’t help but look corporate and unimaginative. (You can upload images made with other software, as others have clearly done, but Saatchi doesn’t offer those instructions.)

The categories, “Landscape”, “Lifestyle”, “Action”, “Night”, “People”, and “Urban” (now all closed) demonstrate these limitations, with only a few exceptions. The image of naked boys playing leapfrog on the lawn was far more risque than I ever expected to see on Google+, as was the shot of nipple tassels being blow-dried.

That said, neither one of these shots express an actual idea, and I’m sure judges Tracey Emin, Shezad Dawood, Cindy Sherman, and Baz Luhrman will notice that. I don’t envy them for having to slog through all these images. It’s bound to be mind-numbing.

Notably, none of the judges are qualified as motion photographers or GIFmakers. (They’re “forward-thinkers”.) But who cares! They shoot pictures and that seems to be the only real bar for entry.

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