These Surreal GIFs Are Made From Vintage Photos And Wit

Bill Domonkos’s hypnotic GIFs, made from vintage photos and archival photos, will entrance you. The artist talks to Co.Create about why he makes them.

The possibilities of film have gone through many evolutionary leaps since the days of Eadweard Muybridge and the miracle of motion picture horse-galloping. Sometimes the best way to put current technology in perspective is by combining it with its predecessors. One artist is doing exactly that by creating dream-like GIFs from ancient photos and footage, as though the time in between Muybridge and the Internet had never occurred.


Bill Domonkos is a filmmaker and animator based in Oakland, California. He has worked in the computer game industry, and created interactive projects for clients as varied as The Library of Congress, Levi’s, and Disney. His personal work, though, which has been shown internationally in cinemas, galleries, and museums, tends to be more experimental.

“I am interested in the absurd, as well as moments of sublime beauty,” the artist says. “To renew and transform materials, experiences, and ideas. The extraordinary thing about the moving image is its ability to suggest the ineffable–something that cannot or should not be expressed in words. It is this elusive quality that informs my work.”

Domonkos has lately been given to creating charming animated GIFs that are not quite creepy, but definitely in the ballpark. Okay, some of them are a little creepy, like the vintage photo of a high-society dame in repose, with steam continually shooting out of where her hands should be, had they not been digitally excised. These assemblages are made from a variety of sources, all of them antiquated.

“I view my work as a collision and recombination of ideas,” Domonkos says. “My process unfolds gradually and spontaneously–using found materials such as archive film footage, photographs, and the Internet. I experiment by combining, altering, editing, and reassembling using digital technology, special effects, and animation to create a new kind of experience.”

Indeed seeing some of these creations continue on in perpetuity has a hypnotic effect, that recalls the way Jack Nicholson begins seeing period-accurate ghosts during the course of his mental break in The Shining. The cinematic creations are only the latest examples of how the same medium used to conveys feelings with clips from TV shows can also be elevated to more artistic pursuits.

“In the past, I’ve created a lot of ambient video pieces that run in a loop,” Domonkos says. “I look at the GIFs as being an extension of that work. A GIF is time, not only repetition, but a continuation of what would otherwise be a very short video.”


Watch that continuation at work with more GIFs in the slides above.