The Most Beautiful GIFs in (and of) Creation

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I like a good GIF just as much as the next person, but the image format doesn't exactly call to mind scenes of serene beauty. GIFs are for spicing up a half-completed webpage, providing a sarcastic reaction, or, as The Atlantic Wire's Elspeth Reeve has demonstrated so powerfully, storytelling, but as for the sublime, let's leave that to the .jpeg and .tiff files of this world.

But the work of Marinus Olde Loohuis puts the lie to that. Olde Loohuis'sTumblr, Head Like an Orange, showcases the GIFs he's made out of high-definition footage taken from nature documentaries. (The Tumblr gets its name from a description of British TV and radio personality Karl Pilkington, whose characteristic stupidity is often about nature, evolution, and science, and his inability to grasp it, says Olde Loohuis.) His favorites, he told me over email, are those where the loop is seamless, a beginning and an end non-existent.

Whether it's fog lifting at a mountain's edge or a butterfly flapping by, Olde Loohuis's images take a snippet of a longer documentary and carve it down to a single loop. In the context of a film, any of these moments would have passed in an instant, too brief to stand on their own. But as GIFs, caught in a cycle of endless playback, they gain their independence.

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Rebecca J. Rosen is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where she oversees the Business Channel. She was previously an associate editor at The Wilson Quarterly.

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