Ukiyo-e, or “pictures of floating worlds” were woodblock prints that became wildly popular in 17th -19th century Japan. Emerging as a spontaneous artistic development, they remain, to this day, as some of the most well-known imagery and, by extension, some of the most readily available glimpses into what life was like in Japan.
But this was before the age of computers, or even hand-drawn animation, so of course each represents a moment, frozen in time. But thawing those images and bringing them to life, sometimes realistically and other times surrealistically, is Japanese animator Atsuki Segawa.
Working with original images of Ukiyo-e,the animator has carefully computerized certain parts, putting them in motion. Some are done humorously, like the travelers watching a modern-day Shinkansen go by. But others are quite sincere. A total of 8 different Ukiyo-e GIFs were created for the purpose of entering into a GIF contest sponsored by Adobe.
Above, “Night Scene in the Yoshiwara” by Katsushika Oei is brought to life. Her interplay of light and shadow, a distinct style rare in woodblock prints, is subtly animated.