James C Photography | Grotesque-selfie


October 13, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

As a way to get into the Halloween spirit, I have started working on the idea of grotesque. By grotesque, I don't mean blood and gore. Grotesque is a play on what is unnatural in shape or appearance. It is fantastically ugly, bizarre, or absurd. I wanted to start with an image that is simple like a selfie with a darker overtone. I chose this pose to accentuate the glare from my eyes and the lighting was chosen to give some shadows under the eyes.

Picture of myself in less than flattering lightDarker selfiePicture of myself in less than flattering light

My first attempt was to apply the definition of grotesque to my image. I enlarged one eye, cleared the color from the other eye, turned down my mouth, curved my nose, brought the chin to a point, raised my hairline, doubled my eyebrows, cropped my ear, and shaded my face to make it look more sickly. Then I decided the background could use a melted look as it appears more unworldly. 

Altered photo making myself appear villainous and grotesqueGrotesque selfieAltered photo making myself appear villainous and grotesque

My second attempt is a deviation from the traditional grotesque. Since our digital images are just data, I decided to move the data from the files around hoping to give an interesting unnatural grotesque effect. I found that this type of art is called glitch art. The idea seemed simple enough. Unfortunately, the first attempt was too mild. Going further with the data manipulation ended up corrupting the files and losing the image.

Barely moved data manipulated photoPoorly glitchedBarely moved data manipulated photo Failed glitch image where the image becomes corruptBlack and white glitch failFailed glitch image where the image becomes corrupt

Through these failed attempts new ideas came about. Manipulating the data can change the colors and causes the image to jump around. Then in Photoshop I changed the color for each glitched row of the image. This led to my first (fairly successful) grotesque glitched selfie. It was great how the eyes doubled over making them almost black.

Successful glitched grotesque selfie oddly colored and darkenedSuccessful glitched grotesque selfieSuccessful glitched grotesque selfie oddly colored and darkened

Finally I decided to better combine the glitch art style with the grotesque theme. Created through Photoshop is the following image where I moved and rotated parts of my face to unnatural positions. I then colored the changes with the muddled color that came from previous data manipulations. Finally, I changed the background to a pixelated black and white.

Manually glitched grotesque selfie with pixelated backgroundManually glitched grotesque selfieManually glitched grotesque selfie with pixelated background

I hope you enjoyed hearing about my successes and failures in grotesque glitch art. I'd love to hear from you. Leave a comment if you found this helpful or interesting. And let me know of any tricks you use for creating this type of art.


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