Girl, 2013

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                                                   Woman smoking a cigarette, 1920

   "In Woman Smoking a Cigarette Man Ray moves beyond photography as documentation to employ it as a means of creative expression.This tiny print was carefully mounted, signed and dated by the artist, indicating that he considered it a complete work of art. The image is daring both in its composition and content. The subject is pictured from an unusual vantage point, with the crown of her head at the center of the plate. Made at a time of social and legal conflict about equality for women - the same year the suffragettes won the right to vote in the United States - the photograph flouts convention by showing a woman smoking, her head thrown back in wild abandon" (Naef, Weston, 12).  

     As I see it, the photograph poses a few questions: 1) What defines art?, 2) Is the value of the art piece found in its aesthetics or in its conceptual premise (or perhaps in the signature)? and 3) Is art subjective or objective? I think there are a few 'lenses', through which we can observe and explore this photograph: the sculpture-like and symmetrical beauty of the subject, the historical background of the photograph, gender equality, etc. Thus, while it's not necessary for us to see in it something more than just a beautifully captured moment, I also think that the date, 1920, is as much a part of the work as the subject of the photograph.  
Reference: Naef, Weston, In Focus: Man Ray: Photographs from the J. Paul Getty Museum. 1998. The J. Paul Getty Museum.  


    Cinemagraphs are still photographs with just a certain part moving in a continuous loop. They are something between a photo and a video and are created using an editing software and video or animated footage. They are then stored in a .gif format, which allows them to be uploaded on the web. The term 'cinemagraph' was coined by New York City-based photographer Jamie Beck and Web designer Kevin Burg when they started making cinemagraphs at Fashion Week in New York in 2011 (Flock, 2011).  

Beck and Web's website:

Reference: Flock, Elizabeth, "Cinemagraphs: What it looks like when a photo moves." The Washington Post. 07/12/2011. 03/07/2013. <>                                                                          


                                               The Update      

Questions I considered:  
1) Why would I create a cinemagraph out of a still picture?  
2) How would the update be not only technological but also conceptual? 

My starting point was to consider what was special or interesting about Man Ray's photograph:

  • the subject almost looks more like a sculpture than a photograph (hence its aesthetic value);
  • it is completely still - there is no smoke coming out of the cigarette;
  • it is taken from an unusual vantage point;
  • it challenges the conventional view of the woman;
  • not so much a documentation of the moment as much as creative expression of the artist - dated and signed => complete work of art;
         All of these aspects made me ask myself if we could keep the sculpture-like and beautiful stillness of the photograph while also keeping up with the technological innovations and new trends such as animation, video and cinemagraphs. Can a cinemagraph be a means of creative expressions, its own work of art rather than simply documentation in its truest sense despite its dynamic nature? If a work of art can't be exhibited or mounted somewhere, is it still art?

        Thus, I decided that I'll try to create a work of art using the new popular trend - cinemagraphs. I decided to use my own footage rather than clips from movies and again to show a woman or in my case a girl in a somewhat daring manner. I intentionally chose to also photograph my subject from an unusual point so that in my pieces again you cannot see her eyes. Finally I decided to create a virtual gallery of some sorts using Tumblr, so I created my own page: where I uploaded the two cinemagraphs. I also signed and dated them in the same way Man Ray did with his photograph but because of their format I did it in the caption. 

       In order to keep the theme of the original work, I chose to portray a girl smoking (with the smoke visibly moving in this case) and drinking (with the scotch pouring out of a bottle). My idea was to portray a girl in 2013.   

    I shot my footage using a video camera and a tripod because the camera had to be very still, so that I could later isolate my subject more easily. I uploaded the videos to Adobe Photoshop CS5 (after converting them because the initial format couldn't open in the program) and with the help of tutorials on how to create a cinemagraph, that I found on the internet, I made the two .gif files. The most important distinction between a cinemagraph and an animation is that in a cinemagraph, the background or most of the picture has to be completely still. This meant that I had to choose my still frame and create a layer mask so that only a small portion that I had selected would actually move. 

    Finally, I had to decrease the size of the .gif files a lot in order to be able to upload them on Tumblr. Then I created a new Tumblr blog page and uploaded the cinemagraphs "signing" and "dating" them using the caption.





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