Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Google's new Motion Photography Prize transforms humble GIF into high art

By Milena Veselinovic, for CNN
updated 8:34 AM EDT, Thu April 17, 2014
London's Saatchi Gallery teamed up with Google+ for the The Motion Photography Prize, the world's first competition for artists working with animated GIFs. The winning entry, shown here, was by Brooklyn artist Christina Rinaldi.
Courtesy Saatchi Gallery
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Saatchi Gallery has teamed up with Google plus for the first GIF art award
  • The Motion Photography Prize went to Brooklyn artist Christina Rinaldi
  • Artists are increasingly looking to GIFs as bona-fide channels for self-expression

Editor's note: If you're reading this article on a mobile, please go to Saatchi Art where you can see the work of all shortlisted finalists and the winner.

(CNN) -- When you think of GIFs, those never-ending sequences of looping motion, you're more likely to associate them with lightly humorous viral content than a respectable art form.

However, their hypnotic movement has been gaining favor with the artistic community, and now one of the most high profile museums in the world, London's Saatchi Gallery, has teamed up with Google+ to explore their more reflective side.

They gathered a roster of impressive judges, such as film director Baz Luhrmann, artists Shezad Dawood, Tracey Emin and Cindy Sherman, and Saatchi Gallery CEO Nigel Hurst, for The Motion Photography Prize, the first global competition for artists working with animated GIFs.

Over 4,000 people from 52 countries entered their work, which fitted into six categories - landscape, lifestyle, action, people, night and urban. The top gong went to a Brooklyn-based creative director Christina Rinaldi, whose mesmerizing GIF of a New York City window cleaner, shown above, draws the viewers in with its almost trance-inducing repetition.

Kostas Agiannitis, a cinematographer from Rhodes, Greece, focuses on the depth, form and geometry of the field in his work. His work was shortlisted in the lifestyle category.
Courtesy Saatchi Gallery

Cindy Sherman, American photographer and film director, was attracted to the vibrancy of Rinaldi's work: "It almost transcends the GIF medium by turning the soapy water into brushstrokes, so it seems more like creating a painting," she explained.

Rinaldi herself said that choosing motion rather than still photography was crucial to capturing the rhythm of the window cleaner at work: "I was inspired by his brush strokes and the texture of the suds," she said," I watched him as if he were a performance artist -- his work temporary and only to be witnessed within a few seconds. I quickly became enamored with his efficient rhythm. Surviving in New York City requires an elevated sense of efficiency and an innate hustle."

The work of other finalists -- Kostas Agiannitis, Micaël Reynaud, Matthew Clarke, Emma Critchley and Stefanie Schneider, highlighted the diverse and creative nature of a GIF as an art form.

Emma Critchley, finalist in the people category, explores what happens to us as land-based mammals when we become immersed underwater.
Courtesy Saatchi Gallery

"There is incredible potential in this technology, and many photographers are now using GIFs to create motion in their work", says Saatchi Gallery's CEO and one of the judges Nigel Hurst.

"You're looking at an image that floats somewhere between a still photograph and film, it has elements of both but sometimes incorporated in an unexpected way, which makes it even more compelling," Hurst says.

Artist Matthew Clarke, shortlisted for the night category, is interested in the notion of identity, and habits which are revealed through unconscious movement.
Courtesy Saatchi Gallery

He added that the judging process was no different than when looking at other, more conventional, art: "What stood out for us were images which were arresting, and used the parameters of the GIF in an imaginative way."

Artist and illustrator Clay Rodery, whose work has appeared in the New York Times, The Atlantic and on HBO, initially started creating GIFs to practice animation, but soon started making entire pieces for the format drawn by the chance to more eloquently express ideas he had inside his head.

Micaël Reynaud's work, in the Action category, captured a pigeon in hypnotic motion.
Courtesy Saatchi Galllery

He says:" First and foremost I'm conscious of it looping. Its duration might be very short, sometimes only several frames, but in a loop there is the potential for its content to be endless."

Moreover, Rodery says that GIFs helped him develop as an artist: "It most certainly has expanded the breadth of my work and its emotional impact. These days you need to work very hard to get your work to stand out, and a moving image really does wonders to get you noticed."

This work by California based artist Stefanie Schneider, aka Instantdreamsnet, was a finalist in the landscape category.
Courtesy Saatchi Gallery

The exhibition will be featured online on Saatchi Art, a web gallery for emerging artists.

Too haute to handle - inside the world's biggest furniture fair

Korean artist creates fantasy worlds in her studio without Photoshop

Pimp my fish tank: This is the eerie, beautiful world of aquascaping

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
CNN Style
updated 4:54 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
CNN went to the International Talent Support contest in Trieste, Italy, to find out who will be the next big name in fashion design.
updated 9:03 AM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Photograph of an undisclosed location by Patrycja Makowska
Patrycja Makowska's enigmatic images show crumbling palaces with ornate ballrooms, swirling staircases, and grand rooms strewn with rubble.
updated 1:56 AM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
From Maastricht to Melbourne, CNN brings you the most extraordinary and beautifully designed bookshops in the world.
updated 11:10 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
Photographer Joan Fontcuberta plays with reality and fiction, giving goats wings, and adorning monkeys with unicorn horns.
updated 6:46 AM EDT, Thu July 17, 2014
L.A. artist Christine McConnell styles herself as a glamorous pin-up, but her sumptuous cakes evoke the Tim Burton-esque realm of fantasy.
updated 12:51 PM EDT, Mon July 7, 2014
A new generation of creatives are taking code to a more colorful realm, using digital media to push the boundaries of art.
updated 4:04 PM EDT, Thu July 3, 2014
From space vacuums to dial-less phones, 50 objects offer a colorful glimpse into daily life behind the Iron Curtain.
updated 11:36 AM EDT, Tue July 1, 2014
Every June, 200,000 perfectly styled people attend the Glastonbury Festival, known as much for the music as the glamor on its muddy fields.
updated 7:24 PM EDT, Mon June 23, 2014
What does an acclaimed chef do for an encore after he's closed the best restaurant in the world? Starts looking for the key to all creativity.
updated 8:55 AM EDT, Thu June 26, 2014
French photographer takes us on a nostalgic trip to the golden age of Hollywood with images of glamorous movie palaces of the art deco era.
updated 4:54 AM EDT, Wed June 25, 2014
BASEL, SWITZERLAND - JUNE 17: Visitor walk next to the artwork 'Continuel Mobile - Sphere rouge' by Michelangelo Pistoletto in the Unlimited section of Art Basel on June 17, 2014 in Basel, Switzerland. Art Basel one of the most prestigious art fair in the world, which runs until the 22nd of June 2014 will showcase the work of more than 4,000 artists selected by 300 leading galleries. (Photo by Harold Cunningham/Getty Images)
Over 92,000 people flocked to Art Basel, a top international contemporary art fair, to see works by the likes of Damien Hirst and Jeff Koons.
updated 9:11 AM EDT, Tue July 15, 2014
CNN bring you the latest from the Olympics of architecture, this year directed by the Pritzker Prize-winning architect Rem Koolhaas.
updated 7:30 AM EDT, Wed June 18, 2014
After years of research art experts and scientists have found a painting hidden underneath Picasso's 1901 masterpiece "The Blue Room."
updated 12:54 PM EDT, Tue June 10, 2014
A convoy of the world's most luxurious supercars drives from England to the Monaco Grand Prix, causing a stir along the way.
updated 12:54 PM EDT, Tue June 10, 2014
This is what happens when seven world-class architects design bus stops in a tiny Austrian village.
updated 7:20 AM EDT, Tue June 3, 2014
A new exhibition in New York shows that when it comes to the art of origami, it takes a lot more than just folding paper.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT