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Pictures that move?

They are referred to as cinemagraphs and can only be described as moving pictures — more than a photo, but not quite a video. Clueless? At first I was as well but after doing some research I discovered a whole new style of taking photographs.

It all started when a client asked me to shoot a portrait series using the cinemagraph technique. They were planning an installation highlighting employees who represented the core values of the company. The exhibit would hang on the walls at their corporate headquarters. My first thought, how are they going to display a moving photograph? I imagined the scene in Harry Potter when the photographs in the newspaper moved like a video in print.

More concerned with how I would execute the assignment, I let them worry about the walls while I focused on the technique. Cinemagraphs are nothing more than an animated GIF. You know, those annoying flashing and spinning icons used to on websites in the 90s. GIFs are making a stylish comeback. A video is taken of a scene then, using Photoshop, parts of the scene are frozen while other areas are allowed to move. The result is a still photograph with slight movement.


Antolino is a maintenance man for La Quinta Inn & Suites. He represents the core values of La Quinta and is featured in the Core Values installation. Antolino is quiet and rarely seen but his efforts keep the Dallas area hotel running smoothly. The walls of his tool room are lined with work orders and though they are not the only task he performs, the orders are a large part of Antolino’s daily job.

We shot video and still photos of him in his tool room in front of the undulating slips of paper. We added movement to the video with a very fancy wind machine — a hair dryer.


Antolino was our first victim subject and the yardstick by which we measured success on the other cinemagraphs. We wanted to shoot each employee in their environment and each moving picture would reveal a little about the subject. Olga, for example, works behind the front desk but she does so much more so we brought her out into the lobby. The hair dryer technique worked so well in the Antolino video, we decided to use it again with the curtains.


The project took me to Chicago during a miserable time of the year. It was cold, windy, rainy — did I mention cold. At one point we braved the elements to grab dinner. The wind and rain did a number on us — umbrellas we had borrowed turned into twisted balls of metal and fabric on a stick after walking half a block.


Actually, there were many funny moments working with the Steves. Steve Stern and Steve Durman were the brains behind the project — I referred to them as the Steves.  Ta’Vis, for example, was going to stand in front of a revolving door. Though I was supposed to man the camera, it seemed as though I was the only one who could stand out in the cold, rainy and windy Chicago weather to spin the door by hand. As I battled pneumonia in the elements one Steve stood next to the camera while the other communicated with me via hand signals through the glass wall — it was a team effort.

The first half of the installation is finished and looks great. The cinemagraphs are displayed using a LCD Screen positioned vertically. The project looks better than I ever could have imagined which is why it is nice to work with such creative people who know exactly what they want.


After spending time getting to know each person and the jobs they performed, it was easy to tell why La Quinta believed they exhibited the core values.

You can see some more examples of cinemagraphs and learn a bit about the history of the moving photo.

One Response Subscribe to comments

  1. Gareth Rockliffe

    Hi Paul. I’m hoping you can give me a hint. I’ve been working on cinemagraphs for a year or so, but now I want to create a display for my landscape work and wondered how you powered the LCD screens…was it simply a dedicated PC/Mac or something as simple as an iPod? If you could point me in the right direction I would really appreciate it.

    Great work, thanks for sharing

    May 03, 2012 @ 3:27 pm


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