What makes an animated GIF so compelling isn’t just that it’s an image in motion; it’s that it’s cyclical. It loops, and anything caught within it becomes like a gear. In a way, what makes a GIF so satisfying is that its endless motion is almost like an elaboration upon the machinery of life.
This is the aspect of the animated GIF that French photographer François Beaurain explores in Monrovia Animated, a new series of looping images that explore life in the capitol of Liberia. In his GIFs, Beaurain juxtaposes the static dilapidation of the impoverished capitol with the colorful and repetitive energy of its citizens, turning them into “a piece of the conveyor belt that animates the city.”
Many of Beaurain’s GIFs were captured at the ramshackle Ducor Palace Hotel. Once one of the few five-star hotels in Africa, it was closed before the Liberian Civil War, and has been rotting ever since. Beaurain has used the hotel’s environs, ravaged by time though they may be, to set into relief the vibrancy and vitality of his subjects. They are shown doing endless cartwheels, sweeping up their own shadows, jogging around the pool, and more.
In an interview with Visual News, Beaurain says that what inspired him to create Monrovia Animated was the scarcity of technology in Africa, and especially digital art.
“There are very few examples of web-based creations in Africa,” he says. “Most of the fancy projects you see on the internet come from the modern and rich westernized world. Here, most of people do not have computer and even less internet access and when I show people my GIFs, they sometimes ask me if I am a wizard. And on the other side of the screen, people are not used to seeing fancy things coming from the slums of Africa.”
You can see more of Beaurain’s work at his official website.