Research Paper

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By Meaghan Niewland

SUPERVISOR:  Dr. David Harris Smith


A Major Research Paper/Project

Submitted to the Department of Communication Studies and Multimedia

in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements

for the Degree

Master of Arts in Communication and New Media

McMaster University

© Copyright by Meaghan Niewland, August 2012




 “The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes” (Proust, 1934). Our daily routine can blind us to changes and realities in the world around us, and the artist or visionary has the ability to intercede in the taken-for-granted quality of the everyday by introducing reflexivity and new perspectives. Artistic works can offer complex ways of thinking that challenge audiences to see the world in new ways as they engage in formal exploration of artistic materials and formats and the concepts they anchor.

Photography and film are compelling media in their ability to introduce new ways of seeing one’s self, one’s world, and one’s experiences. In particular, these media work with a temporal palette, such as compression of time through ellipsis, frame rates and periodic sampling. A relatively new medium has come to fruition in recent years, the moving photograph, or Cinemagraph, which highlights movement within a still frame. It is the contention of this analysis to discuss the roots of this new medium as well as the key critical issues and themes arising from the hybrid animated photo. Some of the key questions addressed in this analysis include: (i) What is the theoretical framework that makes the cinemagraph a unique form of new media and how is it connected to a larger body of art within the history of photography, animation and cinematography? (ii) How does the temporal structure of cinemagraphy affect the perception of ‘the event’ it documents? (iii) How does the cinemagraph manipulate spatiotemporality to frame ‘the event’ and thereby manufacture inferred meaning or human awareness?


Review of Literature


The Development of Cinemagraphs

Cinemagraphy is a merger of time manipulation techniques characteristic of film and video with techniques of still frame photography. Cinemagraphs are animated GIFs (Graphic Interchange Format) created by looping frames of video with subtle movement, then layering them with a still frame and carefully masking a portion of the composition to reveal motion. The concept of living photos was introduced by J.K. Rowling in her Harry Potter book series released between 1997 and 2007 and visualized in the Harry Potter films released between 2001 and 2011. The term Cinemagraph was coined by visual graphics artist Kevin Burg and photographer Jamie Beck. Burg began playing with the animated GIF format in 2009 and later teamed up with Beck to produce moving photographs for New York Fashion Week in February of 2011 (Warren, 2011). Burg and Beck posted the first cinemagraphs titled Les Tendrils on Beck’s Tumblr blog, From Me to You on February 13th, 2011 (Beck, 2011). According to Burg, the “recent intersection of technology, bandwidth and equipment that’s made Cinemagraphs possible” (Warren, 2011). Prior to the introduction of the Cinemagraph by Burg and Beck, similar animated GIFs were posted to a the web log If We Don’t, Remember Me, created by Gustaf Mantel, that features animated stills of popular films such as The Shining starring Jack Nicholson with posts dating back to October of 2010 (Mantel, 2012).

Though the technique had been implemented prior to the work by Burg and Beck, the pair are recognized for the surge of popularity that this medium realized in 2011. Cinemagraphs posted by Berg and Beck on From Me To You have received over 38,000 comments and via Tumblr have been the subject of thousands of reblogs and likes (Brad & Don, 2012). By July of 2011 the cinemagraph trend had been covered by the The Huffington Post, Washington Post, Tubefilter News and Gizmodo and by October, Berg and Beck were featured on trend tracking websites Lifehacker and Mashable (Brad & Don, 2012). Owing to their unique fusion of still and moving imagery, Burg and Beck’s cinemagraphs were virally distributed on the web and many other artists were inspired to develop and implement the same strategy and techniques in their own work. Search queries for ‘cinemagraphs’ began picking up in early April of 2011 and peaked later in the month correlating with the publishing dates of many of the first blog posts about the medium (Brad & Don, 2012). Further, cinemagraph photo-sharing communities have developed in increasing numbers over the span of the past year via social media.

Roots in Photography, Animation and Cinematography & The Development of the Animated GIF

Cinemagraphs are a merger of more traditional photography, cinematography and animation. The technique draws upon and combines thematic qualities from these traditional media to generate something new. The introduction of photography in the early 19th century brought with it a new ability for the artist to capture realism in a way that exceeded other graphic visual media. Cinemagraphs further intensify the realism of a photograph through the display of subtle movement within the photographic composition. Beck notes that a cinemagraph is a “photograph that is still alive” (Brown, 2012). It is not simply the movement that carries the realistic thematic quality, but rather the combination of the still with the movement and the repetition that intensifies it.

The movement within cinemagraphs is an animated sequence of still images, which aligns this media with traditional animation. Animation has deep roots and may be traced back to Paleolithic cave paintings depicting figures in motion. Contemporary animation practices however hinge upon the 1824 discovery by London doctor Peter Mark Roget that the retina retains images for a fraction of a second before the next image succeeds it (Whitehead, 2004, p. 21). Roget’s paper, Persistence of Vision with Regard to Moving Objects became instrumental to the development of moving images. Subsequent to Roget’s discovery, a variety of devices were invented to view frames in sequence and trick the eye into perceiving motion, such as the thaumatrope, phenakistiscope, praxinoscope, flip book, and zoetrope.

Digital animation developed as a result of the integration of computer technology in the latter 20th century and continues to benefit from research and technology investment  in the 21st century. Higher bandwidth for web distribution and increasingly advanced tools for digital compositing have facilitated the development of cinemagraphs. One of the most influential works to address the development of animationis Lev Manovich’s The Language of New Media. Manovich suggests that as cinema entered the digital age there has been a return to nineteenth century pre-cinematic practices, when images were hand-painted and hand-animated, resulting in a style so commonplace that cinema can no longer be clearly distinguished from animation (Manovich, 2002, p. 250).  Manovich asks, “How does computerization affect our very concept of moving images? Does it offer new possibilities for film language?” (Manovich, 2002, p. 287). Cinemagraphy appears to also retrieve past approaches to animation, reprising the filmic motion photographs of Eadweard Muybridge. Cinemagraphs work with the concept of moving images by taking the motion realism of film and mapping it on to still photography in a unique and stylistic animated digital format. The cinemagraph is an emerging computer-enabled photographic modality which offers an alternate conception of the moving/still image and new possibilities for a film language predicated on this hybrid genre.

The animated GIF is the primary format for this medium, encompassing multiple frames encoded into a single image file that can be played back automatically in animated sequence through a browser or other related software. The original GIF specification was released in 1987 and was typically reserved for simple animated icons (Brown, 2012). Animated GIFs now have more extensive application than when first introduced due in large part to social media and the ease of sharing that has been facilitated by increased bandwidth.

Temporal Composition & The Frame

How does cinemagraphy function as a temporal medium? What artistic possibilities are afforded by the temporal action of the cinemagraph? In Reading Images: The Grammar of Visual Design, authors Gunther Kress and Theo van Leeuwen (2006) highlight the signifying action of image composition through the framing of elements and the relation of elements within the frame. In the cinemagraph the composition of the frame is multiply constructed by a spatial framing of the image, by a temporal framing of a movement event, and by a framing of the movement image within the still image.  Consequently, interpretation of cinemagraphs must account for the complex signification in its composition of mixed spatial and temporal frames.

Cinemagraphs explore the narrative possibilities instantiated by the formal attributes of photographic temporal manipulation. Through this medium, the artist has the ability to highlight an event by manipulating movement in the composition. The framing of cinemagraphs can highlight a scale of narrative durations that would otherwise go unnoticed by the viewer. Small details, such as wind blowing hair, or a blinking eye, may comprise obscure background activity in traditional film or animated sequences, but cinemagraphs take these fine movements and frame them against a still backdrop. The framing of these small events and their juxtaposition to a frozen context, summons a sense of wonderment, recalling the miraculous: “Every act, seen from the perspective not of the agent but of the process in whose framework it occurs and whose automatism it interrupts, is a ‘miracle’ – that is, something which could not be expected” (Arendt 1954, p. 168).

The Event – Futurism & Movement

The cinemagraph functions to highlight an event to make the viewer aware of its existence. Clinical psychologist Zoltan Torey asserts that “human awareness is something that has to be manufactured, that is, actively done. It is not just […] an inalienable property or built-in characteristic of the brain” (Torey, 1999, p. 113). The cinemagraph automates a cognitive selection by creating a focal point of movement in a scene to actively construct or ‘manufacture’ awareness of the event for the viewer. The narrative of the piece is actualized as the cinemagraphic event is derived from a potential field of the unmanifest, as “that which previously remained only a potential or a virtuality now emerges and becomes actual, though only in place of something else that could have arisen here at this time, but did not” (Kwinter, 2001, p. 48).

For Henri Cartier-Bresson “it is the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event as well as the precise organization of forms which gives that event its proper expression” (Pollack, 1969, p. 155). The cinemagraph highlights a momentary significance by framing it temporally as an edited duration of of moving image frames and spatially through its position and juxtaposition to the still frame of the composition. As such, the viewer is made aware of a moment that may otherwise have been subliminal. Further, the repetition of the movement accentuates the motion framed in the composition. Spatiotemporal framing of the moving image is intrinsic to the function of the cinemagraph; its isolated movement directs human awareness.

The deployment of movement to highlight an event was a central tenet of Futurism, an artistic and social movement that originated in Italy in the early 20th century. The Futurist’s desire was to “motivate their pictorial and verbal signs [through] their use of new and varied materials to create expressive contrasts and a sense of dynamic movement” (Poggi, 1992, p. xi).  Italian painter, Giacomo Balla’s Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash (1912) exemplifies the Futurist idea that the world is in constant motion. The painting depicts the legs of a dog and the feet of the individual walking it, in a multiplied blur of movement. Similarly, Marcel Duchamp’s 1912 work, Nude Descending a Staircase (No. 2), highlights figural animation within the static medium of painting, much like Balla’s piece, and references Muybridge’s 1887 stop-motion photography series Nude Descending Stairs. Muybridge methodically photographed sequences of events in everyday life, exposing the subtle composition of animated action, a motivation shared by today’s cinemagraphographers.

As much as the cinemagraph appears to highlight movement, this movement is also essential to defining or creating a space – a reciprocal action of movement and space. Futurism shares with cinemagraphy the ideal of enabling the viewer to focus on the physical sense of movement in the composition to cultivate substance in the piece. Futurist painter, Umberto Boccioni, wrote that “substance is indissociably linked to motion” (Kwinter, 2001, p. 66). This leads to the single most important contribution of Futurist theory to our modern conception of the world: that “the physics of space-time, […] gave rise to a fundamental new entity – the event – as well as the new geometry through which it could be expressed” (Kwinter, 2001, p. 69). Cinemagraphs implement Futurist philosophy by employing movement in space to highlight the event in a composition. As psychologist Michael de Certeau (1984) writes: “a space exists when one takes into consideration vectors of direction, velocities, and time variables. Thus space is composed of intersections of mobile elements” (p. 117). In this sense, the creation of a moment is relative to the motion enabled in the space of a cinemagraph, which is intrinsic to the composition. The temporal framing of a subject intensifies its attribution of meaning.

The Extension of Memory

Sigmund Freud declares the invention of photography to be an extension of memory, defining it as man’s “instrument which retains the fleeting visual impressions […] materializations of the power he possessed of recollection, his memory” (Bate, 2009, p. 9). Likewise, Henri Cartier-Bresson states that “photography is […] a spontaneous impulse coming from an ever attentive eye which captures the moment and its eternity” (Cartier-Bresson & Sand, 1999, p. 45). Like photography, cinemagraphy functions as an extension of memory to preserving an event in time. As Jamie Beck notes, “cinemagraphs capture a delicate part of life and capture fleeting moments of time, the beat of a city or the breath of a human. It is alive and lives forever whereas a photo is frozen and a video is a linear description of time” (Alexander, 2011).  Cinemagraphs takes an instant and frame it within a binding loop, much like the memories we encapsulate. But, what kind of ‘life’ or ‘liveliness’ does this kind of frozen-moments-in-time medium implicate?

Mixed Temporality – Repetition, Looping & The Uncanny

Cinemagraphs often reflect an unsettling, almost ghostly image of the real. Still photographs are familiar, but the conjunction of the photographic still and the moving image in this media is unexpected for the viewer, and may result in an uncanny undertone in the work, particularly where the cinemagraph depicts people or facial movement. The nature of the forever-binding loop creates an embalmed movement and forces the viewer to be locked into the repetition of the motion, which can be unsettling. The cinemagraph bears the mark of the uncanny with its infinite temporal nature. The idea of infinity, a terrifying concept to internalize is connoted by the infinite animated loop of the GIF format. Humans connect the unknown with fear and find comfort in the familiar. Infinity is a concept that no human can ever truly know as it sits outside mankind’s realm of experience as mortal beings. This infinite temporal quality contributes significantly to the cinemagraph as an uncanny medium.

Photography has historically been linked with the uncanny. Thorburn and Jenkins refer to photography as, “the proclaimed technological defense against death [that] became death’s image. The preservation of distinctive human traits divorced from a living individual, produced less an experience of immortality than a phantom, a bodiless transparent, or even invisible, double, who haunts our imagination rather than re-assuring us” (Thorburn and Jenkins, 2003, p.48). Animation and film can be traced similarly. Gehman and Reinke (2005) propose that “animation enacts what Freud termed the uncanny, that category of aesthetic feeling that accompanies our uncertainty about what is alive and dead. And so perhaps we could contrast the category of “live action” film and with what should perhaps be called “dead action” film or perhaps even “undead” cinema – the haunted realm of the animated film that produces the effect of time without an index” (p. 140). Sconce (2000) observes that digital technologies serve as “either uncanny electronic agents or as gateways to electronic otherworlds” (p. 4). These ghostly images of the real make the viewer question what is beyond the frame. He further states that “by traversing time and space at the speed of light, electronic media have always indulged the fantasy of discorporation and the hope that the human soul, consciousness, or subject could exist independently of his or her material frame” (Sconce, 2000, p. 202). .Like the living photos in Harry Potter, cinemagraphs hold a mysterious quality that can be traced to its roots in photography, cinematography and animation. The unfamiliarity of cinemagraphs as a new medium bring a sense of the uncanny for the viewer. The medium further carries undertones akin to that of photography, cinema and animation, reflecting life in a way that carries a lifeless undertone, further intensified by the repetition of movement locking the viewer into a hypnotic cycle with an infinite temporality.

Cinemagraphs as New Media & The Future of Cinemagraphy

The 2011 surge of popularity surrounding cinemagraphy in the artist community resulted in the development of new methods of creating cinemagraphs through the use of smartphone technology in 2012. A start-up, Montreal based company called Factyle, developed a simple application for the iPhone called Cinemagram which allows users to easily produce and share cinemagraphs. Cinemagram launched as a paid app in February of 2012, and shifted to a free app once the kinks were worked out in March of 2012 (Popper, 2012). In the six weeks since its release as a free app on iOS, it has added more than one million users with the biggest markets in the United States, China and Brazil and tens of thousands of cinemagrams created each day. An Android version is also in development (ibid.). With the increasing use of smartphone technology and newly developed tools such as Cinemagram, cinemagraphs are becoming more widely shared through social media, particularly photo-sharing communities such as Tumblr and Flickr. The widespread use of this app may even change the terminology used for this medium from ‘Cinemagraph’ to ‘Cinemagram.’ Cinemagram may be on the same road as the popular photo sharing app, Instagram, that was recently purchased by Facebook for $1 billion with more than 50 million users and 5 million new users per week (Taylor, 2012). Though the smartphone technique may not have the precision or quality of professional work, the temporal nature of the medium remains. The juncture of traditional photographic and animation techniques with emergent techniques for digital compositing and display will continue to allow this medium to flourish.

Artists who use applications such as Cinemagram to produce and distribute their work compromise their IP rights, as the work created through use of the application becomes property of both the artist and the company that owns the application. For example, Instagram states in its Terms of Use that:

By displaying or publishing (“posting”) any Content on or through the Instagram Services, you hereby grant to Instagram a non-exclusive, fully paid and royalty-free, worldwide, limited license to use, modify, delete from, add to, publicly perform, publicly display, reproduce and translate such Content, including without limitation distributing part or all of the Site in any media formats through any media channels, except Content not shared publicly (“private”) will not be distributed outside the Instagram Services. (Wired Photo Department, 2012)

As Cinemagram develops it may take on a similar Terms of Use, which may hinder some artists’ use of the application. However, as it is a free application, it is expected to see a surge of use by the average smartphone user, eager to share moving photographs of the everyday with the world.

Microsoft’s Research Lab researcher, Neel Joshi, has also developed a freely downloadable Windows 7 application called Clipits that lets users create cinemagraphs in a process they call “computational photography,” which are being shared on Tumblr (Ulanoff, 2012). The application was released in March and, though not as popular as Cinemagram, it adds to the community of amateur cinemagraph creators.




The theoretical perspective informing the research of this study is derived from the methodology of Grounded Theory. The primary text that provided insight into this analysis was Theoretical Sensitivity (Glaser, 1978). Glaser states that, “Grounded Theory is based on the systematic generating of theory from data” (p. 2). Generating theory was an outcome of thorough analysis of cinemagraphy as a form of new media. Through analysis of aspects of design fundamentals inherent in cinemagraphy as well as thorough research of literature relative to themes apparent in the medium, a theoretical framework was constructed. Rather than pursuing a hypothesis prior to analyzing the medium, implementing a Grounded Theory methodology enabled artistic and theoretical threads of cinemagraphy to become visible and apparent. Glaser (1978) contends “that there is much value in the conceptualizing and conceptual ordering of research data into a body of theory” (p. 3).

The thematic basis for the cinemagraph series, Framed In Time, is capturing the essence of everyday life. The series encapsulates fleeting moments of the everyday to unmask events that typically remain imperceptible. The series was influenced by the writing of Michael de Certeau, particularly through the ideas he presents in The Practice of Everyday Life (1984). One of the main tenants in his writing was to theorize everyday practices and actions that typically go unnoticed or reflected upon. The goal of his work was to make “everyday practices, “ways of operating” or doing things, no longer appear as merely the background of social activity [enabling] a body of theoretical questions, methods, categories, and perspectives, by penetrating this obscurity, [in order to make] it possible to articulate them” (de Certeau, 1984, p. xi). Cinemagraphs highlight an event by isolating movement within a frame and contrasting it to the stillness of the negative space within the work. This particular movement would otherwise be camouflaged if left in an array of moving parts through a medium with a linear timeline like film, or if frozen in a single frame through a medium like the traditional photograph. The cinemagraph enables an event in the everyday to be framed in such a way that it invites the viewer to reflect on a particular action, delimiting it from remaining an ‘obscure background of social activity.’




For successful cinemagraphs, it is essential to shoot with the use of a tripod or similar support system so that the motion loop is lined up seamlessly with the still frame throughout the entire sequence. The animated loop is typically structured at approximately 15 frames per second, as this is an ideal rate for the animated GIF format for display on the web. The artist could manipulate the animated sequence to be slower or faster than the typical frame rate, which would affect inferred meaning in the work. The standard tools used in the creation of cinemagraphs are a camera with a tripod in combination with Adobe After Effects for editing and Adobe Photoshop for digital compositing into the GIF format. The highest quality can be achieved when shooting with a digital SLR camera and tripod. The artist shoots the scene in a movie format, which is then imported into Adobe After Effects for editing. AE enables the artist to carefully mask a portion of a selected scene while layering it with a selected still frame from the same scene. Subtle movements are best suited for the production of cinemagraphs. Once the movement has been layered with the still frame, additional photographic effects may be considered such as brightness, contrast, hue balance, filtering, etc. Once the desired effect is achieved, the movie clip is exported and then imported into Adobe Photoshop. AP allows the artist to composite the sequence into an animated GIF format to be saved for the web and devices. The GIF must be saved as an infinite loop to preserve the endless repetitious quality of the medium. Certain scenes require the animated loop to play forward and in reverse in order to make a seamless transition between the first and last frame. Other scenes, like flowing water, are best suited to be played through in a forward motion only.

With regard to subject matter, the cinemagraph artist must develop an eye for what suits the medium. Cinemagraphs lend nicely to things that can loop easily without an obvious jolt in the scene where the GIF begins and ends. This is one of the main features that categorizes the media as a cinemagraph and not just an animated GIF. It is the subtle, steady movement contrasted against a still background that defines the nature of cinemagraphy against the traditional animated GIF, which is simply a looping video with an obvious beginning and end point that repeats. For this reason, hair blowing in the wind, blinking lights, flowing water and other thinks of the like are popular subject matter in many cinemagraphs. For Framed In Time, there were many scenes that would prove to be interesting for a photograph or film, but difficult or impossible to translate into a cinemagraph, as there was no subject in the scene that would be easily ‘loopable’ for the GIF format. This may be a contributing factor for many cinemagraph artists lending to staged photography in their scenes or compositions. As there are many technicalities to consider in the shooting process of developing a cinemagraph, it is a tendency for them to be planned more often than found.

Many design decisions must be considered when constructing a cinemagraph and how that may affect the message portrayed in the piece. It is imperative for the artist to consider elements such as: (i) the selection of frozen regions and areas of movement and how they might function as contrasting elements; (ii) event selection and in and out points of the animated sequence; (iii) the frame of the event and composition and (iv) the speed of the animated movement as relative to the chosen frame rate. Situating the event within a spatiotemporal frame enabled by the design fundamentals of the medium mark cinemagraphs as a unique communicative artistic tool allowing the artist to highlight a subtle event in a fraction of captured time in a way that no prior medium has facilitated.


Though recent technological advancements have made this new medium possible, there are still limitations for artists working in this format. For example, animated GIFs must have a reduced file size in order to be web friendly, which hinders image quality. Further, the GIF format works with a limited palette of 256 colours, so colour-rich photographs appear dull comparatively to other formats. The artist must experiment with the GIF settings in order to allow for the best resolution possible in the final export and these settings may differ depending on the brightness and colouring of the work. Darker photographs, such as night shots, or darker hues within a scene can be problematic as they are more difficult to retain image quality as an animated GIF. It is recommended to use dithering in combination with as high of a colour palette as possible. It seems brighter photographs shot in highly lit areas have better reproduction with dithering than low light images. In order to retain the highest quality possible while keeping the file size manageable, the cinemagraph artist must consider lowering image size, reducing dither to less than 100%, limiting the colour palette and restricting the number of cinemagraphs accessible on a single web page. The goal for the artist becomes a balancing act of maintaining the integrity of the photograph with the best quality manageable, while keeping the file size as low as possible in order to be optimized for the web. Despite these technological limitations, the thematic quality to highlight an event through the isolation of movement in a composition has dramatic appeal but forethought of the subject matter must be made in the production process in order to consider how the scene would translate to the animated GIF format in post-production.




As a cinemagraph series of the everyday, Framed In Time implements a spatiotemporal composition to frame ‘the event’ within each piece. The series of 18 works seeks to intercede in the taken-for-granted quality of the everyday by introducing reflexivity and new perspectives of the frame. Similarly to de Certeau’s goal of exposing perspectives of the everyday that often remain obscure, Framed In Time captures everyday moments and harnesses them with a mixed temporal frame to give the audience a new perspective of common actions or everyday observations. For example, the piece Rear Window features a blur of activity in the foreground that remains still while the top right corner acts as a frame within the frame. A man walking within the building as displayed through a small window is highlighted as the main action in the piece. The action of the movement of the man would be camouflaged if left as part of a completely still photograph or as part of a moving video sequence. As the central event in the scene, the viewer is made aware of the man’s existence and is positioned to contemplate his role in the portrayed meaning of the work.

The slight movement in the photographic scenes adds a definitive element of liveliness. There is a sense of a more real portrayal of the real in each cinemagraph. Further, the motion in cinemagraphs gives them a three-dimensional feel. For example, Gore Fountain draws attention to the continuous flow of water and the bird hovering above the fountain appears to be closer than the water behind it. There is a stronger sense of depth of field with the movement of the water contrasted against the still scene surrounding it.

As Kwinter (2001) noted, Futurist theory gave rise to the new entity of ‘the event’ within the model of space-time as well as the new geometry through which it could be expressed (p. 69). The thematic quality of manipulating space-time to draw audience awareness to an event connects Framed In Time to Futurist art. Cinemagraphy imparts upon the artist a communicative device that enables awareness of ‘the event’ to be harnessed in a form that is unique from other new media formats. As such, Framed In Time serves as a unique photographic series that binds a spatiotemporal structure to make the viewer aware of the existence of everyday events that would otherwise go unnoticed.

While the temporal structure acts as an infinite loop to preserve a moment or a memory in time, cinemagraphs also summon a sense of the uncanny. For example, Swing portrays a small child looking away from the viewer and toward a swing set with an infinite movement of swings set in motion by a gust of wind. The framing of the sequence draws viewer attention to the eerie isolation of the backward and forward motion of the swing set. The scene is infused with a ghostly image of the real that would not be communicated if left as a still photograph or moving video.




Framed In Time was produced to add to the limited number of professionally constructed cinemagraphs, particularly in Canada. It serves to highlight the everyday in order to delimit everyday events from being what de Certeau (1984) refers to as an “obscure background of social activity” (p. xi). The series challenges the audience to gain ‘new eyes’ and realize a novel perspective on the everyday.

The analysis of the cinemagraph, achieved through a Grounded Theory methodology on the topic, adds to the non-existent archive of academic writing on cinemagraphy as a form of new media. This analysis situates the cinemagraph within the history of photography, film, animation and computer graphics as well as within the comparative history of Futurist art. Grounded Theory enabled me to conceptualize the artistic and theoretical threads of cinemagraphy to become visible, and to situate these concepts in a theoretical framework that is unique in this context. Further, this study serves as a contribution to the illustration of methods for successful production of the medium.




Cinemagraphs are a new medium that extend the application of the animated GIF format, made possible by recent advancements in technology that allowed for higher bandwidth on the web. The 2011 surge of popularity of this medium, brought on by Burg and Beck’s production of moving photographs for New York Fashion Week in February of 2011 was facilitated through social media, particularly photo-sharing communities such as Tumblr and Flickr. Social media provided the outlet for artists to share this unique concept with the world as well as implement it in their own work and share it amongst the artist community.  Though there are some limitations of image quality, the thematic property of highlighting an event through the isolation of movement in a composition has dramatic appeal. Cinemagraphs merge traditional photographic, animatic and cinematographic techniques to become something new. Recalling the ideals of Futurist work by artists such as Giacomo Balla, Marcel Duchamp, and Umberto Boccioni, cinemagraphs seek to highlight movement in a composition, framing the event as the focal point of the work. The temporal framing of the subject intensifies its attribution of meaning. Cinemagraphs take the form of an infinite temporal loop that brings a memory to life while at the same time reflecting a sense of the uncanny. With the development of smartphone technology applications such as Cinemagram, this new media is becoming more and more prevalent on the web via social media outlets.


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