In Micaël Reynaud’s animated gif, “What was that about hats again?” a series of impressionist portraits morph into one another in an endless loop. The images switch so fast and so effortlessly the subjects -- all of whom wear hats -- take on an almost three dimensional form.
The gif became a huge hit on Google+ after prominent tech blogger Robert Scoble shared it last week. Users of social news site Reddit also took a liking to it, launching the animation to the front page of the site’s main image section.
Animated gifs have always been a big part of Web culture. But when Google decided to allow the file format in its social network, the looped animations quickly reached a whole new audience. Including, it turns out, Reynaud.
Reynaud, 34, lives in Montpellier France where he designs websites for a living. He's made animated gifs before, but got into them more with the Google+ tools. One animated gif, in fact was a collection of snapshots of his followers’ Google+ profiles.
“Gifs are awesome,” Reynaud said. By looping the same images again and again, they emphasize an “intense” level of detail. “It's like a hypnotic very short film,” he said.
That animation spawned a fascination with gifs. Reynaud makes them “just for fun,” he says -- but his have a special quality that make them stand out from pack. Most .gifs are animations pulled from video clips. But Reynaud’s are stop-motion -- he combines separate photographs into a single movement.
This instills a surreal quality to his images. In one, dozens of black and white photographs of outstretched hands meld into one another. In another, a lone motorcycle sits stationary on a sidewalk while pedestrians walk past in a blur.
Reynaud said he was inspired to create the impressionist animation after watching the Monty Python film the Meaning of Life. That movie’s main point, he said, was that “people [are] distracted from spiritual matters by everyday trivia."
But for Reynaud, his gif art is all about taking everyday trivia and making it meaningful.
Reynaud is “taking the little nothings in my daily life,” and animating them, transforming them into art for the social media age.