“Behind every great man there’s a great woman“… or vica versa.
Some of you know, many of you don’t, that what started out as a photography blog of my film archive turned into a place where the bodies of work created by my partner Kevin Burg and I live. Sometimes we create specifically for the blog stories and cinemagraphs and sometimes it’s our outside client work that we want to share like proud parents. Whatever it may be the work is a collaboration of two artists. We feel incredibly lucky that we get to spend a lifetime together making art and imagery, that of which we are most passionate about.
Yesterday, Kevin talked to Mashable about our work- a great insight into my other half:
“How Tumblr and Cinemagraphs Became the New Web Design Chic”
by Christina Warren
The Leaders in Design Series is supported by Volvo.
Cinemagraphs — or still photographs with moving elements — exploded in popularity in 2011.
The trend — and the term — was coined by visual graphics artist Kevin Burg and his partner, photographer Jamie Beck. The GIF files, which maintain elements of photography and cinema (hence the name), gained prominence, thanks to Beck’s wildly popular Tumblr blog, From Me To You.
The fashion industry immediately embraced the pair, including brands as far ranging as Ralph Lauren and Juicy Couture. Popular iOS app Flipboard jumped on too — featuring a Cinemagraph on its front page.
Burg has a strong background in design. He started playing around with the GIF format in 2009 — looking at ways to make the modern animated-image more artistic and more relevant. The magic behind Cinemagraphs was born out of his collaboration with Jamie Beck for New York Fashion Week.
The aesthetic caught on, with myriad others joining in and trying their hand at the craze.
But Burg is also a well-known Tumblr theme designer. We don’t think it’s unfair to say that the success of From Me To You and the virality of Cinemagraphs was aided by his well-crafted and artistically detailed design of the site.
We spoke with Kevin about Cinemagraphs, Tumblr and what it feels like to create a new aesthetic.
Q&A With Kevin Burg
Cinemagraphs really took off in a big way in 2011, popping up everywhere from Fashion Week to Flipboard, is there any one thing you attribute to the rise of the aesthetic?
Technically speaking, we believe there’s a very recent intersection of technology, bandwidth and equipment that’s made Cinemagraphs possible.
Photography has always been technology-driven, and Cinemagraphs are part of that. Creatively, the visual world is at levels of saturation that necessitated a new medium which takes strengths from both still photography and video, while being consumed quickly.
Digital SLRs make high-quality photography accessible to almost anyone, and online video is in a transitional but maturing state, so an in-between format makes sense in order to differentiate our work.
As the co-creator of Cinemagraphs, what do you think of the sub-movement of artists or would-be-artists who are trying to recreate the form and the overall movement? Did you anticipate Cinemagraphs becoming an influential part of digital design?
As with any artistic expression, we feel that different points of view make the world a more interesting place. I’d hate to imagine a world where there was one painter or one sculptor.
From the beginning, we felt strongly about Cinemagraphs and if anyone else was half as excited about it as we were, it was bound to influence someone. We’re excited to see other people exploring the in-between medium and new ways of expression.
What tools do you use when creating Cinemagraphs, and what is your workflow like?
We shoot on both still and video equipment and use Adobe After Effects and Photoshop for editing. Jamie and I are highly collaborative throughout the whole process, while still promoting each other’s strengths. Shooting resembles both a photo and video shoot.
We think of the GIF format as a delivery method not so different as a still photographer might think of a JPG. Depending on where their work goes, it might end up as many formats — JPG, TIFF or ink dots on paper.
GIF makes a lot of sense for social media and for Tumblr in particular, but we began using HTML5 video to display Cinemagraphs very early on. GIF is a really fun format, and we love how it’s used for distilling big ideas into a bite sized chunk that can be shared in a dead-simple way. HTML5 has other advantages, which make the most sense in a commercial setting, such as for main website graphics. Adding other layers that HTML5 offers is also exciting and is something we’re eager to experiment with.
From Me to You is a real success story — both for social media and for Tumblr. How did you decide to use Tumblr for this project and knowing what you know now, could you ever imagine using a different platform, like WordPress or Facebook?
Jamie is the reason behind that. She’s poured so much energy into the blog over the past couple of years. I was on Tumblr already with a personal blog, so when we talked about starting a blog for her I convinced her to use Tumblr despite most notable bloggers using other platforms.
Tumblr has been extremely supportive and influential in our work and we’ve met great friends from it. There are arguments to use Blogger or WordPress if you want to be a full-time blogger, but for our purposes we love Tumblr.
Tumblr was also instrumental in spawning Cinemagraphs because of its highly social nature and ability to share GIFs easily.
You are a well-known Tumblr theme designer, with offerings in the Theme Garden and premium themes. What makes a good Tumblr theme?
A good theme is a marriage of beauty and functionality. Tumblr’s platform provides a nice limitation of capabilities that forces designers to create visually stunning themes that still keep that Tumblr-esque style and the result is an amazing set of themes from designers like Peter Vidani and teams like Pixel Union. The prices are great too — $49 (or less) for work by world-class designers like those is a steal.
How does designing for Tumblr and Tumblr users differ from standard web design?
Typically there is a continuity from theme to theme that designers usually stick with. In art classes, professors will force limitations on you as a way to elicit creative solutions to visual challenges, and this plays in to Tumblr design by forcing designers to ask, “What can I do with this basic layout?”
Making a Premium Theme is an extra limitation because you want to please users so they’ll really love the theme.
What inspires you?
I’m inspired most by people I meet who are doing interesting things and working really hard at it. Those people inspire me to work harder, and in most respects, that’s more important than talent.
Jamie and I have a saying that goes, “If Rachel Ray can have five shows, we can do this.” It’s a bit random, but the point is that many people do superhuman things, and when you feel something is overwhelming, it’s helpful to see it in perspective like that.
What is your advice to aspiring artists, visual designers and photographers who want to make a splash?
The most important thing is to find the thing you’re passionate and focus on it. Passion gives you endless energy to work hard and focus will help you become the best at what you’re doing.
We’re big believers in the 10,000 hours rule, and it’s impossible to get there without focus. In regards to making splash, focusing on your own work and your own vision will lead you to what you should be doing rather than looking for a flash-in-the-pan solution or going after what’s popular.
What’s next? Do you have any other projects in the works?
In 2011, we were exploring what Cinemagraphs could be, and in 2012 we’ll really be able to show the next evolution. I don’t want to give anything away, but we’ve have a lot of exciting interest in our work and it’s going to be a fun year! Better cameras, cool projects and some world traveling — it’s going to be a good ride.
Cinemagraphs™ is a trademark of Jamie Beck & Kevin Burg
Thank you so much Christina!