[music playing] PATRICK DAVISON: GIFs were established as a free and usable part of the web.
TOHPER CHRIS: GIFs are great because it's a low barrier of entry.
Anyone can play around.
And it's fun.
MATTHEW RADER: The animated GIF, for us, was just a photographic that could move and existed forever.
JAMIE BECK: This is a photograph is still alive.
And so, we were already thinking beyond the limitations of the file name.
PATRICK DAVISON: An animated GIF is an image that's been encoded using big Graphics Interchange Format, where it has multiple frames encoded into a single image file.
And a web browser or other piece of software will play those images back in animated sequence automatically.
The original GIF specification came out in 1987.
Early example of GIFs that you see are flames.
Flames are very popular.
And the waving American flag is all over the place.
Most notoriously is the under construction GIF.
Then by the time you get to '95, '96, you've got the release of the Netscape browser and these web browsers that can automatically animate them.
And all of a sudden, you see this new spike in popularity.
But following that, there's this sudden division between the web 1.0 of the '70s, and '80s, and '90s, and then web 2.0 of like the 2000s moving forward.
So the idea of using GIFs becomes way less fashionable.
But around 2007, 2008, popularity is swinging back up.
People start to realize that you can use GIFs for tons of different things.
Like now that we're in 2011, 2012, there's more GIFs online.
But you also have way more places to put them-- things like reddit and Tumblr, Wordpress, even like Twitter to a certain degree.
So you seeing actually just like postmodern GIFs.
And the tools for GIF creation are becoming more widespread.
TOHPER CHRIS: GIFs can be anything, but what unites the GIFs is that they're short.
And they are something that most Tumblr users can create themselves.
People are sharing more.
And I think Tumblr definitely has a part of that.
Humans really like repetition.
We feel comfortable with it.
And sometimes just the longer you watch something, the funnier it gets.
Or it will actually change meanings.
You have the glitch art.
You have pixel art.
And you have stuff that you can't even really categorize.
I think it's mostly young people driving the form definitely because it enhances their online persona.
Just being able to make some of those makes you so cool.
It's uncharted territory right now.
And I think really anything has the possibility or the potential of being an art form.
But certainly, around animated GIFs, we've seen a transformation.
We've seen them go from just people taking TV shows.
We've seen people making a original stuff with them.
Mash ups between video games and movie characters even Tumblr memes.
I think there's other new art forms waiting to be discovered in there that we just haven't figured out yet.
MATTHEW RADER: So we were doing fashion editorials.
And that's all in magazines and things like that.
And the fashion world really didn't latch onto the internet.
So we waned to push that.
PAMELA REED: It makes sense that the web is there.
Why put a still picture online?
The image can now move.
MATTHEW RADER: So instead of making still pictures, you would make animated pictures.
And they would just go on infinitely forever.
PAMELA REED: Everyone always describes our work as creepy.
What's creepy about it?
But our work is very playful.
So I mean, I think the two biggest inspirations is one, the web.
We work off of memes, and memes are in our work.
MATTHEW RADER: They're just a kid making something funny with their friend and tossing it up online.
PAMELA REED: And then, that's where the best memes come from.
MATTHEW RADER: Yeah.
PAMELA REED: It's accidents.
But besides that, video games.
MATTHEW RADER: It lends itself to like video game culture, like playing a game and blowing people up on the moon, and slaying dragons, and things like that.
It's just this idea that you could be anything and go anywhere.
PAMELA REED: Or you can become anyone.
MATTHEW RADER: I mean, these are possible in games.
PAMELA REED: We get bored really, really quick.
And it's always about doing the next thing in technology.
And it used to be that art was in museums on walls.
And now, all of a sudden, with this thing of the web and art on screens, all of a sudden, you go to the MOMA, and there's a screen with the art on it.
So we just want to be there.
KEVIN BURG: I think there's opportunities with this kind of hybrid medium to show people something they've never seen before, to have these moments that can just exist forever.
JAMIE BECK: It's like this little magical warp of time.
We can live within a moment within that moment, to dream of something and then create it in a camera and share with people and let them dream with you just for a moment.
KEVIN BURG: It allows a moment to live on.
And there's some kind of fascinating about that.
JAMIE BECK: Whatever that one thing is that is alive is what your eye is going to go to.
It sets the emotional impact of what the cinemagraph will be.
KEVIN BURG: It's a big creative decision for us what moment to focus on.
JAMIE BECK: We have a cinemagraph called "Anna Sees Everything."
She's watching a show.
And it's kind of like a little portrait of her.
This is what she does for a living.
KEVIN BURG: So like watching the footage of Bill Cunningham, he didn't take a picture of every model that walks by.
JAMIE BECK: And when he likes something, he likes it.
And he shoots it.
And when he doesn't, he doesn't.
And he doesn't even think about it.
KEVIN BURG: So we get to learn something in watching somebody for hours on end while we work on it.
We understand them.
JAMIE BECK: It's so voyeuristic.
But then you feel like you should look away, but then, you can watch it.
And so then you can watch it some more.
And it's like, oh.
KEVIN BURG: The simplicity of it I feel is really beautiful.
And we see it as an evolution of photography.
If you think of all the ways that photography is displayed, these are areas that we want to go into.
JAMIE BECK: There's little parts of it that are alive.
And you can choose to engage in depth into the art.
Or you can choose to just glance at it.
And it's there as if it's a photograph.
KEVIN BURG: And it's essentially something you've never seen before.
PATRICK DAVISON: Who are those people for whom they think in GIFs or they almost speak in GIFs.
And I think once you get to that point, yeah, sure, it's art.
PAMELA REED: The idea of art has changed.
MATTHEW RADER: And we've always seen what we can get away with.
PAMELA REED: When we started making these, we were calling them animated GIFs.
But it was so much more than that.
TOHPER CHRIS: It's just too new.
And I love being a part of this at a time when we're just figuring it out.
[music playing] We should say "GIF."
It's not a "GIF."
It's a "JIF."
It's a "JIF."
"JIF" is how I learned it first.
The founder of the format of "JIF," the CompuServe guy-- This is ancient internet history here.
--he said, choosy developers choose "JIF."
Like the peanut butter.
We can talk about why you should say "GIF" because it doesn't sound like peanut butter.
Let's find this guy.
My understanding is that this guy prefers "JIF."
So you gotta represent for the creator.
I say we gotta go with the inventor of the format.
[giggle] Everyone says "GIF."