Guest Post, Cole Robertson: Film und Foto und Film: The Animated GIF Renaissance

The animated GIF. Technical throwback, or medium ripe for exploration?

Civil War

The GIF usually consists of two or more images, sequenced together to create a looping animation. GIFs have exploded in popularity, both in fine art and vernacular settings (256colors, i heart photograph exhibition in 2008, blingee, etc). Why? Aside from the fact that Steve Jobs called a hit on flash animation years ago, I think there are a few factors: they’re now easy to make, easy to share, and are losing their previous stigma.

What’s interesting to me is that GIFs exist as a hybrid form in the borderland between video and photography. GIFs can function as movies, but usually don’t—rather, they employ a jerky type of flipbook animation that never completely erases the individual photographs that comprise them. In essence, they exist as a type of photomontage. While it’s possible to suspend disbelief long enough to enjoy the illusion, viewers can still unpack the individual images and check the author’s work, so to speak.

This uneasy media tension is the inspiration for my own animated GIFs. These images started as before and after photos in low-end mail order catalogs. By overlaying and animating the before and after shots, these images expose the lies that underpin consumerism’s promise: that real, meaningful change is possible through the purchase of this or that product. That the after images have all been doctored in some way (lighting, special effects, posture, makeup, etc.) becomes clear when the two images are compressed.

It’s easy to dismiss this as another Internet meme, but I think it’s something more important. It seems to me that our media are in transition, merging and creating new forms and new ways of thinking about them. A new, much sharper form of visual and photographic literacy is taking hold. Kinda neat. Also, this rocks:

Lindsay Lohan

Tribute to Steve Jobs

The news that everyone is talking about this week is the passing of Apple’s Steve Jobs.

His abrupt death came as a shock to not just the nation, but the entire world, as Jobs’ creations and ideas have pervaded almost every country on Earth.

The company that Jobs built served to deliver excellent technology — which was always groundbreaking — and has led the charge into the age of the internet.

His work cultivated mass globalization, revolutionizing the way we all communicate and live on a daily basis. It’s hard to go anywhere these days and not find someone sitting with a Macbook on their lap or an iPhone at their ear. Even something as simple as managing our music collection and listening to it on the go was radically reinvented by Apple in only a few short years. The strides that Jobs and Apple have made in technology are astounding. The Apple logo now competes with the Golden Arches of McDonald’s as the most recognized icon in the world.

The most powerful and influential people in our society have stopped and taken time to pay tribute to the man who helped bring magic to our fingertips.

President Obama, on the White House Blog, was quoted as saying, “The world has lost a visionary. And there may be no greater tribute to Steve’s success than the fact that much of the world learned of his passing on a device he invented.”

Even Bill Gates, perhaps Jobs foremost rival and competitor, has said, “The world rarely sees someone who has had the profound impact Steve has had, the effects of which will be felt for many generations to come. For those of us lucky enough to get to work with him, it’s been an insanely great honor. I will miss Steve immensely.”

Jobs pushed the world in an entirely new direction, and he has certainly found his place in the history books. His contributions will surely grow as Apple continues to strive for excellence. Superstition Review, and other online literary magazines simply could not do what they do if not for the work of Steve Jobs. In fact, the world would look a lot different today had it not been for his inventive genius and creative spirit.