Category Archives: Gif Animations

Graphics Interchange Format animations, a.k.a. Animated Gifs, and Cinemagraphs!

Saws In Maremma: GIF Animation

Sawing In Maremma
A Cinemagraph about hard work in Tuscany.

One more GIF animation from Sir Joe Works’ archives: a cinemagraph for Maremma Lovers!
This animated photograph was part of a project related to the quality of life in the countryside. It’s a shot inside the patio of a podere (farm) in Maremma, the heart of Tuscany.
From this GIF animation we can learn something: while humans are still having some problems, animals, like the dog portrayed in this picture, can blend perfectly with the rhythms of Nature.
Check out the GIF animations page for more animated views of Italy, and remember not to try sawing from your window if you’re not an expert!

Robert Johnson: Blues Legend GIF Animation

Robert Johnson: King of Delta Blues
An animated tribute for his birthday.

The style of Robert Johnson, the legendary Delta blues musician, has inspired generations of guitar players. His peculiar fingerpicking style and his high-pitched voice still look amazing today. When Brian Jones from Rolling Stones introduced Johnson’s music to his bandmate, Keith Richards asked «Who is the other guy playing with him?», because he thought there were two guitars playing on the record. He didn’t realize it was just Robert Johnson playing only one guitar!
Son House once remembered that Johnson wasn’t a very talented guitar player in the beginning but then he suddenly acquired his incredible guitar skills in a very short period of time. Son House’s explanation was that Johnson sold his soul to the Devil at midnight in the middle of a crossroad near Dockery Plantation, Mississippi, in exchange for mastering guitar playing. This is probably the most famous legend in music history, known by every bluesman in the world. And probably has its roots in the fact that  Johnson learned quite a bit from Ike Zimmerman, while they were spending time practicing together in quiet places such as graveyards at night so that nobody could disturb them.

Robert Johnson’s first recording session was held in San Antonio, Texas, on November 23, 1936, inside room 414 of the Gunter Hotel. He probably recorded the tracks while facing the wall, performing with a microphone placed in a corner of the room, to enhance the sound of his guitar, a technique called “corner loading” by Ry Cooder.
Someone has speculated that Johnson’s high-pitched voice was the result of a decision made by the sound engineer who speeded up the recording, maybe to fit on a three-minute disc, or because it just sounded more exciting that way. This theory occasionally faces out, and even though it has never be fully proven, the controversy seems to be still alive.

This animated GIF I made years ago is based on one of the only two photographs known of Robert Johnson until June 2005, when Steven “Zeke” Schein apparently discovered a third photo on eBay. The caption of the picture read “Old Snapshot Blues Guitar B.B. King???”, but no one of the two young guys portrayed looked like B.B. King. Schein, who had been inside the guitar business for years and had a passion for blues, studied the photo and convinced himself that the two boys were Robert Johnson with his friend Johnny Shines. The photo was then published on Vanity Fair in November 2008.
One of the problems with Schein’s old photograph is that, if you pay attention to a few details, it looks reversed. The buttons on the clothes (jacket, shirt and pants) of the one who is supposed to be Johnny Shines are on the wrong side for men’s clothing! This makes the guy who is holding the guitar (Robert Johnson) left-handed. But according to the people who knew him and the two confirmed photos, Johnson was right-handed.
Another picture appeared in December 2015, allegedly of Johnson with his wife Caletta Craft, and even if is believed to be authentic by someone, meany think it’s not. And it really doesn’t seem to be him.
In theory, there is one more portrait of legendary bluesman Robert Johnson: Peter Guralnick said blues archivist Mack McCormick showed him a photograph of Johnson with his nephew Louis, but the picture is still unpublished today.

So this GIF animation is my tribute to the King of Delta blues who was born on May 8, probably in 1911, and died on August 16, 1938, near Greenwood, Mississippi.

Cinemagraphs of Rome!

Fontana del Prigione Rome
Another GIF animation of Italy.

This close-up of the consumed marble from the lion’s head at Fontana del Prigione (Prison Fountain) in Rome was shot a few years ago and it’s one of my first attempts with Cinemagraphs. My second experiment with this kind of animated GIFs involved a couple of Italian Dogs that were playing near the fountain.

Legend says that if you are thirsty, this magic photograph will quench your thirst!

La Catrina: Frida Kahlo’s face lifting!

Frida Kahlo Calavera
La Calavera Garbancera and Mexican actitude towards death.

This is one of my experiments from 2014 when I rediscovered Gif animations. It’s a tribute to Mexican artist Frida Kahlo and to traditional folk art from Mexico. Frida’s face is lifting, revealing a calavera (skull in English), a well recognized character in Mexican culture know as La Catrina or La Calavera Garbancera, a female skeleton dressed with the typical outfit used in the early 20th century by the French and European upper class people. This symbol was created by José Guadalupe Posada with the intent to satirize those Mexicans who where ashamed of their indigenous ancestry and where trying to hide their Indian origins by wearing lots of makeup to make their skin look whiter. It was also a critical point of view about the life style of rich people during the reign of Porfirio Díaz.

The calavera, skulls and skeletons are also part of pre-Columbian cultures and their relation with Dead. Mictecacihuatl, the Lady of the Dead and Queen of Mictlán, the underworld, is a goddess from Aztec mythology that resembles the Calavera Catrina. She was in charge of watching over the bones and presiding over festivals of the dead.
The way that Mexicans pay homage to death is still alive in modern celebrations such as the Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) where families gather to remember their deceased loved ones by making ofrendas (offerings) to them. It’s a kind of reunion where the dead gather with the living to share their love and memories. It’s a way to face death as part of the cycle of life. The ofrendas include food and drinks like candies, sugar skulls, pan de los muertos (bread of the dead), bottles or glasses of tequila and mezcal. The offerings may contain other kinds of items such as candles, flowers, pictures and photographs of the deceased, images of saints and devotional paintings known as retablos. All these ofrendas are placed on a ritual altar created to attract spirits of the dead: people from this world can get together and feel closer to the souls of their beloved ones that are now in the other world.

Mexican folk art and indigenous tradition were very important to Frida Kahlo’s cultural background. She collected and upcycled retablos which inspired her painting style, and she is often portrayed with traditional huipiles, a typical garment worn by indigenous women from Mexico.
So on my Gif animation, the calavera under Frida’s face is a crossover between José Guadalupe Posada’s Catrina and the sugar skulls ofrendas painted with particular decorations and style.

There’s even another clue about Mexican and pre-Columbian culture, hidden as one of the calavera‘s decorations: it’s a leaf of Cannabis, commonly known as marijuana (yes, that’s another Mexican word!). It’s one more reference to Meso-American heritage, inspired by Aztec mythology. In fact,  Xochipilli was the god of flowers, beauty, art, song, and games.  His name means “prince of flowers” or “flower prince”.  My guess is that, more than being related to generic flowers, he was related to specific plants. Xochipilli was probably the god of entheogen drugs and is why he’s often represented covered with stylized botanical glyphs. A good example of this kind of representation is the statue unearthed in Tlalmanalco on the slopes of the volcano Popocatepetl now displayed at the Museo Nacional in Mexico City.
As often happens, lack of knowledge leads to misinterpretation, and that’s why for many centuries (and still today) ignorant conquerors and archeologist without botanical studies, especially related to hallucinogenic plants, saw these glyphs as simple floral decorations. Only researchers with a wide preparation in different fields, from archeology to botany and entheogens could interpret the real meaning of those “simple” decorations. Indeed, there are seven different hallucinogenic plants adorning Xochipilli’s body. Notice that the god was also called Chicomexochitl, “seven-flower”, or Macuilxochitl, “five-flower”.

Mexican attitudes towards death are also represented by another figure that gained momentum in recent years in the Americas: the Santa Muerte (Saint Death or Holy Death in English), a.k.a. Nuestra Señora de la Santa Muerte, a folk saint venerated by a growing number of people but condemned by the Catholic Church.
Like the Catrina, this skeletal character is a female, white and skinny, peculiarities often reflected in the wide variety of her eponyms: La Flaquita or La Flaca (The Skinny Lady), La Huesuda (The Bony Lady), La Señora Blanca (The White Lady), La Hermana Blanca (The White Sister), La Niña Blanca (The White Girl) are some examples.
It’s once again a powerful symbol, typical in Mexican culture, that reminds people of their mortality and that everyone, poor and rich, have to face death sooner or later. So she is often represented with a scythe and a globe, symbols representing the universality of the death that makes us all equals.
The origins of the Santa Muerte cult are unclear, but the syncretism between Mesoamerican and European Catholic culture are quite obvious. Many elements are combined together, such as the image of the Grim Reaper from Europe with the indigenous celebrations of death. I’ve also noticed a similarity between Xochipilli, who was also the patron of both homosexuals and male prostitutes, and the Santísima Muerte, who is also seen as a protector of homosexual, bisexual, and transgender communities in Mexico (LGBT community).

I would like to point out one more connection between La Calavera Catrina and Frida Kahlo: It’s the mural painted by Diego Rivera (Frida’s husband) between 1946 and 1947 entitled Sueño de una Tarde Dominical en la Alameda Central which depicts 400 years of Mexico’s major figures and events. The main subject is La Catrina, who is holding on to the arm of José Guadalupe Posada. Next to Posada is Frida holding hands with Rivera represented as a child. This artwork was originally displayed in the Versailles restaurant at the Hotel Prado. It was the only thing of the hotel that survived the 1985 Mexico City earthquake. The mural was then moved to its own museum, the Museo Mural Diego Rivera.

So my animated Gif is a tribute not only to artist Frida Kahlo, but  also a tribute to Mexican traditional folk art, and the mixture of humor and respect towards death that lays behind Mexican culture. It’s a digital ofrenda.

You can find more Gif animations on my gallery!