Guns are terrible objects. They are quite literally designed to kill. But while watching Gun Shop, a short film in which 2,328 firearms, from Western revolvers to assault rifles to water pistols, fly by your eyes in just two minutes, I didn’t just experience abhorrence. The film captures the design of these weapons—their finely machined metals and eye-catching colors—so alluringly, I felt a real cognitive dissonance.
“I [felt] the same way . . . and maybe I made this film out of this conflict,” says filmmaker Patrick Smith. “There is something alluring about guns, and this typically doesn’t sit well due with our disgust for mass shootings (and everything else these objects contribute to). Perhaps this allure is due to their obvious power and refined design guided by their single purpose. Almost in the way a fighter jet is also alluring in terms of power and performance, but ultimately, it’s a killing machine, which is distasteful to any reasonable person.”
To create the animation, in which a new gun flips by once per frame, Smith spent nearly two years touring gun shops and museums, often taking photos “guerrilla style,” in his words—shooting through glass cases without the lighting kit and backdrop you’d want to create completely uniform photos. He used Photoshop to sharpen, crop, and scale the weapons in a laborious, month-long process, attempting to keep the presentation as objective as possible so the viewer could draw their own conclusions. One unexpected assist came from the industrial design itself; all guns, no matter their barrel length or magazine capacity, have the same, finger-sized trigger. That trigger provided him with a point of reference, and it serves as a visual anchor across the entire animation.
As the gun debate rages on, there is literally a continent of evidence that proves taking guns off the streets makes cities safer to live in. But Gun Shop offers a taste of the powerful commercialization of guns, and perhaps a window into why so many people continue to covet these weapons so dearly. “They are iconic, and they are arguably the most important, evolved, and powerful object ever created, regardless of what we think of them,” says Smith. “And to composite thousands of these objects together was a peculiar experience, to say the least.”