The glitch aesthetic: Bringing authenticity to your visual brand

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What happened to ‘Authenticity’ in imagery? We track its new guise in the strange forms of ‘digital accidents’.

The desire for authenticity in imagery is seemingly insatiable. Instagram’s popularity can partly be attributed to this thirst. Their filters can add texture, colour and personality to otherwise unexciting imagery. The influence of Instagram’s nostalgic authenticity is far reaching. 

From urban Hipster to oral Hygiene

Lens flare – that flash of sunlight bouncing into the camera – was previously hipster-only territory and is now ubiquitous. It’s not just used in fashion photography but in mainstream commercial photography. Lens flare is used to sell toothpaste, checking accounts and life insurance. 


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What makes an image feel authentic, however, shifts and evolves. In our increasingly curated world, there’s a pull toward an aesthetic that feels messy and unexpected. The glitch aesthetic – pixilation, blurred images, light leaks, double and triple exposure – fills that void.


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Abrupt Cuts 

We see aspects of it in the GIFs of Tumblr, in music videos (hip-hop star Azealia Banks’ pixelated video for ‘Atlantis’) and in fashion (photographer Viviane Sassen’s out-of-focus campaign for Carven). It also prevails on Kanye West’s Yeezus album with its screeches and belches, abrupt cuts, warped vocals and pixelated outbursts.


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Open images 

Glitches are captivating. Their origin is unknown – some are spontaneous, some are planned – we don’t know. Glitches are exciting because their nature is abstract. We don’t always know exactly what we’re looking at which leaves them up for interpretation. Glitches also expose the inner workings of the digital world – the faults and errors of technology are laid bare. And what is more authentic than an error?


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About the author

Guy Merrill – Senior Art Director, Getty Images

Guy Merrill worked in film and television in New York, before joining the Getty Images creative team in London in 2005. As a Senior Art Director he works with photographers across Europe seeking out fresh talent. His collaborations with photographers have been featured in The Creative Review Photography Annual, Portrait Salon, and Lürzer's Archive and have won awards from PDN, AOP, Graphis and the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize at London’s National Gallery. Guy has a degree in Culture and Communication from New York University.


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