From NYC, to South Korea, to Estonia, our Flixel Wizards span across the globe to create a tight knit community of talented creators, teachers, and innovators. Choosing this small group of individuals wasn’t an easy task. We have so many incredible cinemagraph and timelapse gurus in our Flixel Community that use our products to create stunning content that inspires. Without them, our business wouldn’t exist. But, what makes Flixel Wizard, Virgo Haan, so special? Let’s find out.
Three years ago I quit my nine to five work and dedicated myself to living photos.
Tell me about how you got started in photography, and how that translates to art direction.
After high school I had a very strong will to start studying something related to movie creation. Thus, I tried to step into a university, majoring in TV production. Unfortunately, there were only 3 open spaces and I was fifth in the row. Having been rejected, I was left rather sad and did not know what to do next. Then, out of nowhere, my best friend Indrek said that he was going to study photography. At this time, I hadn’t even had a chance to touch any professional photo equipment. With the help of our friend Heiki Laan, I and Indrek were surprisingly accepted to a photography school. Heiki was one of the top photographers in Estonia at this time and he kindly took us under his wing. We were spending very long days in the studios, shooting locations, carrying lights and asking stupid questions, but this practical field work was compared to old-fashioned theoretical schooling like a highway to photography. So, thank you Heiki Laan, you are my greatest teacher in photography next to Google and Youtube. It was a time when digital photography was starting to take over analog, so in our team it was I who was given a mission to make myself at home in Photoshop. Gradually, I was starting to do more and more photo editing works and graphic design.
Unfortunately, in 2008 the global economy crisis hit the Estonian photography scene really hard. It was no fun to be photographer anymore, so I decided to move on and start a career as an art director at different advertising agencies. For 5 years I did not even own a camera. I was quite sure that I would never start shooting again. One day I read an article about Kevin Burg and Jamie Beck’s invention, “the cinemagraph,” and it got stuck in my head for several months. So, I thought that I would give photography one more chance. After doing some test shots I fell in love with this technique. My head was full of different ideas on how to use it. My friend Renno asked me to travel with him to Kyrgyzstan and I got an idea to make a cinemagraph exhibition about this trip and show it in cinemas right before every movie. I managed to convince the biggest cinema chain in Estonia that their visitors would appreciate to get something extra for their ticket. Said Exhibition got the name: “Movin Kyrgyzstan,” and it was shown all over Estonia for one month. After the first successful exhibition followed the next ones, “In Indian children eyes,” “Voice rehearsal,” and, “Ban animal circuses”. Three years ago I quit my nine to five work and dedicated myself to living photos.
What inspires your work? What do you specialize in?
Inspiration can come from anywhere: Looking at other photographers great work, playing video games, from movies or cartoons. Most of the time, I’ll just stuff as much as possible of inspiration in my head. Once done with that, I’ll go for a walk, ride a bike or go to gym. Then all those random things magically form into ideas. Sometimes its just good to have a small nap. I think that I should thank all those stressful years in advertising agencies. They gave my brain some good training.
I guess I don’t really specialize in anything. I love everything that’s challenging and beautiful.
Describe yourself in one sentence.
My biggest role model in life and photography is Macguyver.
Where do you see the future of cinemagraphs headed?
I have been working with cinemagraphs for about 5 and a half years now, and as a fan of the art, I’ve always had high hopes for something very big to come out of it. But, to be honest, I was very close to bankruptcy a year or so ago and then it hit. Facebook started showing autoplay videos, Instagram did the same and added loop, Twitter is also showing looping videos. At the moment, I get two or three price quotes a day and that’s in Estonia with a population of only 1.4m. I have a feeling that the next 5 to 10 years will be very bright for all photographers that combine their unique talent with the cinemagraph technique. But I think that the future path is not carved in stone for cinemagraphs. I think it will keep developing and we will see many new inventions in the near future. I think that the next big thing will be interactive images, which react to viewers activity, mouse or mobile device movement. Images will be like toys that people in the future can play with and manipulate.
Pick two of your favourite cinemagraphs that you’ve created. Why are they your favourites?
For the first cinemagraph I would pick my whole cinemagraph exhibition, “Moving Kyrgyztan,” because it’s where my path with cinemagraphs started.
Second would be one of my more recent works where I think I was able to capture this contrast of movement and static very well.