I was surprised to learn that cinemagraphs are a new art form. Less than 10 years old, the looping clips in .gif or video format were first developed commercially by a New York fashion photographer Jamie Beck, in collaboration with motion graphics designer Kevin Burg. CINEMA + PHOTOGRAPH. The term “cinemagraph” was coined by Burg and Beck, who used the technique to animate their fashion and news photographs beginning in early 2011. I had seen time lapse video, animatics and the “Ken Burns” effect but what makes cinemagraphs unique is their seamless endless loop and the mixing of high quality still photography where only part of the image is in motion.
Initially I thought this method was something the masters developed, emerging from modern arts movements like “Surrealism” but that wasn’t the case. Imagine if Salvador Dali, Frida Kahlo or M.C. Escher had access to Photoshop? Thinking about endless staircases and melting clocks in motion makes my mind reel at the possibilities! Done correctly and born from commercial and editorial design, cinemagraphs took the animated .gif and elevated it to a new level, one on par with fine art. So much so that the Washington Post described them as “animated gifs for adults”.
This week during my motion studies, I learned of cinemagraphs and was tasked with creating a few of my own. During the course of the exercise, I found that my mind was constantly searching for that captured moment. My eyes searched for things I could put into a loop: a waving flag, a flickering candle, a persons expression. I realized that the most challenging part of creating a cinemagraph wasn’t the production or technical part, but just training the eye to see the story in the moment, to frame images in a sequence that are composed in an interesting and striking way. I am drawn (forgive the bad pun…if you know me…you know I love corny jokes) to design classes more than technical ones, they tend to be systematic, flipping through long manuals learning functions or providing analysis where creative classes are more experiential, pushing you to think and see in a different way. It is a good state of mind to be in, it makes you search for the beauty in things, to be…existential and appreciative.
That said, below is a list of 5 cinemagraphs that would have impressed the masters. Pieces that I found personally inspiring and why.
Turning Globe Animation
“A Wonderful World.” It’s still yet it’s moving, it’s silent yet it’s thought-provoking. It’s the beauty of cinemagraph. (Image source: From Me To You) Ann Street Studios
I really like this animation because of the very precise way it is composed. The mirror is brilliant because the reflection provides added movement in the opposite direction and adds real dimension to an otherwise straight on camera shot. The subtle movement of the curtain lets the image breathe and gives us a sense of atmosphere or air. The stillness of the outside arm in contrast to the motion of the interior arm really works well in adding to the surrealism of the scene and as a perfect mask.
“Shave And A Haircut.” (Image source: From Me To You) Ann Street Studios
This image image brought me immediately back in time to when my mother used to take me to the barber shop on Westchester Avenue in the Bronx. Yes, nostalgia got the better of me, the image is classic, and jazzy, its soft warm colors are inviting. This cinemagraph also utilizes a reflection to add dimension and interest. The only thing I wish it has was someone getting a cut in a chair. I always found the lamps mesmerizing so this one gets a A+ just for choice of subject and composition.
“Lincoln” by Kevin Burg and Jamie Beck www.cinemagraphs.com
This piece by Burg and Beck is just magic. The sun setting as the beautiful blond wistfully pulls and blows petals. Her hair lightly flickering in the breeze catching the light in just the right way. This captures the first crush, butterflies in your stomach feeling. I can almost hear her saying, “He loves me, he loves me not…” after each drop. Well, I will tell you :He LOVES you!” He want to grab you by the hand jump in that Lincoln and go for a long drive, maybe forever, like a cinemagraph.
“The train to Machu Picchu” – by Kevin Burg and Jamie Beck www.cinemagraphs.com
Speaking of hearing things, I hear bossa nova looking at this piece. Technically it is perfect, the looping background is seamless, the effect is not isolated, the movement and light on the table cloth convinces the mind of infinite travel. The image refraction on the wine glasses and the blowing curtain really evoke train ride without the rumble and shaking. The whole composition works in realism yet is peaceful like finding a quiet hidden stream in the woods. I can watch this all day.
“News” – by Kevin Burg and Jamie Beck www.cinemagraphs.com
I love cinemagraphs with people in them. The frozen moment and and stillness add to the magic. In this clip, the world of the normally busting news stand is stopped as a woman flips a magazine. Is this her moment of inspiration? Is she looking for a story someone recommended?
Cinemagraphic inspiration and references….
Cinemagraphs – Living photos by Kevin Burg and Jamie Beck. (2018, November 03). Retrieved from http://cinemagraphs.com
Cinemagraphs Archives | Ann Street Studio. (2018, November 04). Retrieved from http://annstreetstudio.com/category/cinemagraphs
40 Examples of stunning Cinemagraphs – Tripwire Magazine. (2018, November 04). Retrieved from https://www.tripwiremagazine.com/cinemagraphs
Cinemagraph: 28 Still Photos With Subtle Motion – Hongkiat. (2011, July 06). Retrieved from https://www.hongkiat.com/blog/cinemagraph
Cinemagraph – Wikipedia. (2018, October 20). Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cinemagraph
New York City Files. (2016, May 12). Best Cinemagraphs Compilation. Youtube. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ydyGiq7hnOg
FlixelPhotos. (2018, January 02). The Best Cinemagraphs of 2017 | Flixel. Youtube. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sJVTnQL_Lug
Shawn is an Information Technology manager in Washington D.C. and a graduate student at Quinnipiac University pursuing his masters in Interactive Media and Communications.
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