I’ve been stuck in procrastination mode for the last month, art wise. I have lots to do but it often feels too big to start on. So while I work on cracking this annoyance of my brain here’s some fruits of my procrastination from this morning.
I keep returning to the Selfies. I have about 30,000 now and I’ve been slowly sorting them into four groups - Looking at the camera; Looking away from the camera; Mirror shots with camera showing; Other. The first group is the most appealing because the subjects are looking directly at the viewer. There’s something intimate there, even when you’re looking at thousands of them.
I’ve been thinking about how to display them as a mass and it turns out that getting 100,000 printed on ten 1mx1m boards would only cost about £300. But while that has a value it’s not at all transformative. I’d like to do something that both reduces them down to their essence and shows the uniqueness of each individual photo.
The other day I was looking at sorting them by colour, something which didn’t work because the dominant colours aren’t at all interesting (it’s the faces, of course), and in doing so was reminded of the trick of shrinking an image down to a single pixel to find its average colour. So I took 1500 selfies from the first group and crunched them down to 10×10, then back up to 500×500 where the algorithm smoothed out the edges in a way I don’t usually like but went with this time. I did the same for 20×20, 30×30 and 40×40. Here’s the results for a few of the photos.
Okay, that was something. Not much of something but heading towards the right direction maybe. I did what I usually do and opened up Quicktime 7 to make rapid-fire slideshow of them. This looked okay, but either the image was recognisable or completely abstracted. I thought I’d try playing the moving at the same time, split-screen-style, but since I’m only using Quicktime 7 (the older version of Quicktime that has a fair amount of advanced features buried in it) I can’t do fancy editing stuff. But I can layer the movies. And I can make those layers transparent. I took the full resolution and the 10px version and had a play.
What I like here is how the eyes - the important part of the image - are allowed to show through because they’re high contrast. The rest of the image fades away. Sometimes the effect is very dramatic, sometimes it’s very faint, and occasionally the person vanishes completely, but I think I hit on a middle ground, something that is transformative and unifying while respecting the uniqueness of each photograph.
Aesthetically I’m not that bothered by it. It feels like a filter, which of course it is, and while that’s relevant to the whole Instagram thing it’s not at all interesting. And the filter itself is quite a boring prism-style warp.
But it feels like another set up the ladder, and that’s a good thing.
Here’s all 1500 selfies at 2 per second. I’d recommend scrubbing through and dwelling as well as just watching.