Unexpected camera art featured in Year of the Glitch

Phillip Stearns created Year of the Glitch, a gallery of electronic artwork resulting from the shortcomings of digital cameras. There'll be a new image added each day until 2013, at which point the world collapses to a single glowing, phosphorescent point inside the great cathode ray tube of reality. Pictured above is something weird that came out of an Olympus C-840L. [Via Photojojo]


  1. Based on the image descriptions, this seems more like art based on intentional electronic corruption than digital camera shortcomings. Like 102 compression passes.

  2. True Story:

    About ten years ago, my fiancee and I were visiting relatives in Seattle. The husband had a sailboat, and we all went cruising around Puget Sound.

    We sailed past Bill Gates’ compound, and waved at the security detail watching us from his jetty. We took pictures with the husband’s digital camera, waved wine bottles at them and acted like idiots. The security detail watched us through binoculars and several of them were speaking into cuff mikes. We thought nothing of it, and took dozens of other pictures in the course of the day.

    Got to the relatives’ house that night and uploaded the pictures.

    The Pictures Of Gates’ Compound Were All Scrambled. And ONLY those photos. All of the others were fine.

    Any suggestions how they pulled that one off ?

    1. I’d think laser offhand to temporarily blind a sensor but it’d be difficult to use it without making it visible as well as getting into the whole “you pointed lasers at someone’s head” litigation.  I’ve also known of sensors being destroyed by lasers as well, so don’t try that at home.

      It also depends on what you mean by “scrambled.”  Were the images blurry or very noisy?  Were images taken in the same area but not pointed at the house affected or only ones pointed at the house?  Were the images fine when reviewed in the camera prior to downloading?

  3. He’s using a ‘prepared’ camera… not really unexpected art from glitches.  It would have been more interesting if it was all from natural errors in the camera rather than a circuit bending.

    1. I was wondering what exactly the  unexpected part was when you went looking for it and modifying the circuits.

  4.  The images were pure snow, like a dead TV channel -You would have had no idea what the camera had been pointing at. All images taken before we got on the sound and those taken afterwards were perfectly OK. We didn’t check the images until we tried viewing them through the computer – We’d had no reason to think that anything might be screwy, and didn’t bother to check the camera first.

  5. My friend Paul’s camera broke… I want to say it was some sort of Sony… and the photos it took are absolutely stunning. http://paularmstrongdesigns.com/photos/the-broken/ My favorite is probably this one: http://paularmstrongdesigns.com/photos/the-broken/photo/broken-17/ They are actually best enjoyed at full resolution where they have amazing pixel perfect maze patterns and such. A CCD dying in a truly wonderful thing.

  6. I may be intentionally disrupting the circuits of these cameras, scrambling bits in the raw image data, or crunching signals through compression algorithms , but it doesn’t mean that I know what’s going to come out.  Although there is a process, it is an indeterminate one; the outcome is always unexpected.

    I have a collection of images and video from my Canon SD110 that died in 2008.  That experience of watching my camera “get creative” inspired me to start manipulating, circuit bending, digital cameras.  It wasn’t until about a year and a half ago that I really got into it.   From accident to intent is the way the story goes (for many things).

    Thought I feel that shortcomings is a strong word to describe the output of my cameras, the way my work is presented in this article points to issues of how we see the world through these digital devices.  There are limitations to representation, and it’s quite visible in the digital domain because the borders aren’t fuzzy at all, they’re jagged little square pixels.  When the contrast or detail of the content exceeds the device’s capacity for representation, those pixels jump out as a prominent feature.

    Digital information is full of these jagged edges, it’s an inherent feature of the sampling and quantization necessary for representing the world in zeroes and ones.  By injecting noise into the data stream or my subjecting information to processes that introduce noise, the frame of digital visual culture is revealed as a fluid, fragile and beautiful surface.

    Preparing devices to produce these images and then manipulating the code is akin to an artist working in traditional mediums to sculpt tree or paint a landscape.  The tree and landscape exist as they are, without representation, the same is true of digital glitches.  The difference in my practice is that instead of using metal to represent a tree, or paint to depict a landscape, I’m working with the hardware and information directly to produce what may happen by chance.  It’s more akin to a chemist building new molecules based on forms she finds in the compounds around her, or a biologist altering DNA sequences.

    I’m overwhelmed by the response to the blog so soon after starting it and hope that it continues to generate conversations.

    All the best,

    Phillip Stearns

    creator: http://yearoftheglitch.tumblr.com

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