Every few weeks, Flixel hosts an Instagram challenge, dubbed #TheFlixelProject, which is open to any and all who wish to partake. Upon announcing the theme, we give contestants one, full week to submit their cinemagraphs using a particular hashtag. The goal: to fuel creativity, and inspire one another to make beautiful visual stories using cinemagraphs. Interested in getting involved? Head over to Flixel’s Instagram page and keep an eye out for announcements.
There’s something amazing about the selfie. Not taking one, or the concept of a self-portrait, but how such a mundane, jokey and largely insignificant deed became an era-defining, cultural phenomenon. Truth be told, selfies have been around for a long, long time. That said, it wasn’t until the Early Renaissance period when the art form truly took off, and suddenly, artists were using their craft to render elaborate depictions of thy self. Fast-forward to the 21st century: although front-facing cameras were first introduced in 2003, our current understanding of the selfie only came to pass a mere 7 years ago, when the iPhone 4 hit the shelves. And then, while selfies transformed into the ever-present, societal mainstay that it is today, something else emerged from its wake. Something new. Something crazy. Something—dare I say—different: the selfiemagraph. A bit of a mouthful, we know, but selfie cinemagraphs are here, and boy are they here to stay.
In earnest, we elected this theme for the last #TheFlixelProject not just due to the cultural relevance, but because it was time to turn the tables on the cinemagraph community. You know, to give the artists a chance to retreat from their zones of comfort and step directly into the spotlight. We wanted to flip the script, as they say. And, well, you guys really stepped up to the plate/came out swinging/had your eyes on the ball, which made our job rather difficult. But, when the dust settled and we attained some sense of clarity, one cinemagraph, in particular, spoke to us. It had a certain je ne sais quoi. Something we’d never seen before. Lurking within the composition, we could make out a story, and like any good reporter with a journalism degree and an inquisitive posture, we felt the need to uncover it. Without further delay, the person responsible for the winning cinemagraph entry is California expat and Brooklyn newcomer, Jessica Bartlett!
Meet Jessica, Winner of #TFP: Selfie Cinemagraphs
Midway through June, Jessica travelled from Chico, California, all the way down to Prescott, Arizona, to visit her sister who lived in the area. This neat little adventure encompassed four major pitstops—San Francisco, Los Angeles, Sedona, and the Grand Canyon—and the whole trip, door to door, amounted to a whopping 27 hours of solo driving. To many, the idea of road tripping on one’s own seems like a daunting task. However, Jessica didn’t quite see it that way—she used the peace, tranquility and solitude as an opportunity to explore the bounds of her creativity. No music. No podcasts. Just the flora and fauna of her surroundings, and the promise of the open road ahead. And from this odyssey, Jessica was able to find inspiration and produce a memorable piece of work: her submission to Flixel’s latest Instagram competition, #TFPSelfie.
But for those who are familiar with Jessica’s craft, and where her imagination truly flourishes, this may not come as a surprise. “Most of my inspiration is derived from natural [sic] elements,” she said, adding, “I love to document my life within the changing world around me.” Considering the topography of America’s southwest—an area of the world where there seems to be a high concentration of natural phenomena—Jessica must have thoroughly enjoyed the experience, creatively and otherwise.
Like many visual storytellers, Jessica developed an appetite for photography during her senior year of high school. Had she always been enamoured with the arts? You bet. But Jessica was yet to discover her true calling; an outlet that best suited her interests, skills and ambitions. That is, until she enrolled in a film photography course, which opened up an entirely new realm of possibility. While recalling the class, Jessica was able to summon back her initial thought, “Finally, something I can do!”
Since then, she’s come a long way. For her senior year photography project, she decided to capture one photo, every single day, which she then compiled into a series. Upon reflection, Jessica doesn’t harbour much enthusiasm for that particular project. However, the undertaking provided her with an important life lesson that she still stands by to this day: allegiance to the craft. “Dedicating myself to the project helped me grow tremendously, and it ignited the spark that I have for creating.”
These days, that spark continues to shine ever-so bright. Concerning what styles of photography most excite her, Jessica is wary of boxing herself in, remarking, “I love photographing everything! I couldn’t possibly pick a favourite.” Still, more often than not, she skews toward portraiture, as well as nature, landscapes, and whatever else Mother Nature can provide.
Foray Into Cinemagraphs
Jessica learned of cinemagraphs from a graphic designer friend, who encouraged her to look them up. So, Jessica took her curiosity to the Internet and caught a glimpse of the burgeoning medium. Instantly, she was in awe. “I love how it is a new way for me to look at an image. To me, a cinemagraph adds life to a photo.”
As mentioned above, Jessica’s winning entry was captured on route to Arizona during her epic voyage. She was already thinking about creating a cinemagraph, long before discovering the contest announcement. And the fact that she was alone ended up working in her favour; it may take two to tango, but a selfie? Nuh uh—all you need is yourself.
How She Composed the Winning Shot
Jessica started brainstorming immediately, contemplating a number of ideas before settling on one that really piqued her interest. She affixed her camera to the car’s dashboard, laying the groundwork for the shot. There, despite limited space, resources and, well, flexibility, she gathered the footage and was able to execute something all cinemagraphers aspire to: the perfect loop. According to Jessica, achieving such a feat is all about the characteristics of motion, and identifying the traits therein. In her words, “I’ll look at the pattern in the movement, and decide if I should have it bounce or repeat.” She continued, “I have found that it is important to have what you want to be moving not to be overlapping with something else that is moving that you wish to be still. Once I have these steps down, the cinemagraph loop usually works out great!”
In regard to her other pursuits, Jessica’s latest hobby is also, as it happens, a rather topical one. Having recently purchased a consumer-grade drone, she’s hoping to polish her skills and venture into the domain of aerial photography. At present, she is working on a compilation project using a variety of different images captured from a drone. She likens the endeavour to creating a cinemagraph, as it forces her to assume a new, fresh perspective. On a related note, Jessica offered some advice to those who have maybe struggled with the cinemagraph medium. “Start making them, now! Don’t let a fear of your vision not turning out how expected stop you from creating. It is all about the experience.”
When asked to share her thoughts on the hybrid photo/video medium, Jessica remarked, “I am always looking for a new way to approach photography, and cinemagraphs allow me to explore my creativity in a fun new way.”
We sincerely hope that Jessica’s creative journey presses on for many years to come.