The Art of the Animated GIF

Jamie Beck and Kevin Burg's animated photos turn the medium of choice for 4chan trolls into something approaching high art.

You know how people sometimes say that jazz is the only truly American art form? Animated GIFs are like the jazz of the internet: they could only exist, and be created and appreciated, online.

That said, PopTart Cat is not exactly on par with Thelonious Monk. But photographer Jamie Beck and motion graphics artist Kevin Burg may have finally found a way to elevate the animated GIF to a level approaching fine art, with their "cinemagraphs" — elegant, subtly animated creations that are "something more than a photo but less than a video."

Here's one of my favorites:

The pair was inspired to create these cinemagraphs while preparing to cover Fashion Week this past February: "We wanted to tell more of a story than a single still frame photograph but didn't want the high maintenance aspect of a video," they told Co.Design via email. Primarily, Beck shoots the photos and Burg applies the motion-graphics magic in what they describe as "a highly collaborative process" that can take several hours of manual editing in order to breathe the whisper of life into each image.

So why did Beck and Burg choose the GIF format, rather than something more flexible like Flash? After all, it doesn't take more than a couple of these gorgeous pics to slow most browsers to a crawl. "The format has interesting capabilities as well as some severe limitations which are very influential in the visual style of our images," say the pair. "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."

Fair enough — just make sure you enjoy Beck and Burg's creations one at at time, at relatively small sizes (their Tumblr does a good job of keeping the spinning beachballs to a minimum).

See more cinemagraphs at From Me To You and and Oh So Coco.


The Art of the Animated GIF Republished with permission from Co.Design/FastCompany.com. Authored by John Pavlus.