These Glitch Portraits are Your Friend’s Photos You Don’t Remember Taking

“Glitch art for us digital artists is a way to show a bit more authenticity in a world of perfection.”
- Josh Herrington

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Josh Herrington is the creator of these glitch portraits. The prolific graphic designer based in Austin, Texas, works with a number of models and photographers to create the perfect image before putting it through the process of creative destruction.

Faded photographic film colours tinge Josh’s images with nostalgia. Vague memories become eerie faceless portraits reminiscent of long-forgotten nightmares.

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We spoke to the artist to get some clarification.

THE PLUS: What’s the idea behind your glitch portraits?
Josh Herrington:
I worked heavily with branding early on in my career, and everything felt so strict when I started out: follow the rules, put it on a grid, be creative, but not too creative; simple and minimal is king in branding. I needed my own space to decompress, break all the rules, and just have fun. Glitch style really spoke to me. I spent so much time Photoshoping people’s “flaws” and making the products look too perfect. My creativity distended out and latched onto the idea of taking all these pretty pictures and ruining them. It became my quiet rebellion against how I was told it needed to be.   

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TP: Tell us about the subjects of your works. Are they people you know? They’re mostly female – any particular reason?
JH:
They’re all from different circles of my life, some I know from Instagram and some we’ve worked together on shoots. Meeting people to work and share with on this project was very rewarding. It’s changed so much since the beginning and I’m actually really excited for what’s becoming of this project. It compelled me to ultimately go outside and explore with my own photography. I was putting out designs every day when I started, and I couldn’t keep up with the pace of photo shoots, editing, client work, and school at the time, so stock photography was an easy crutch to lean on. I realised early on I had this urge to work with other creatives and grow as an artist with a community. I began distancing myself from photography – I didn’t shoot myself. It’s been a real driving force behind my own growth as a creative and I’m honoured I get to work with so many talented people.

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TP: It really is mostly women, isn’t it?
JH:
This has been brought to my attention before, and I wish I had a profound, poetic, or even troubling answer for this. Truth be told, when selecting photography to edit it mostly comes down to hair, hands, and the emotion of the subject’s body. My end goal is to always have you understand the subjects without facial expressions giving you the cliff notes.

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TP: Can you tell us about your process? What’s it like start to end?
JH:
My first step is always to put on an album I can listen to start to finish while I begin selecting photographs. Music is such a powerful driving force and inspiration for me and I can tell when I have been listening to something while creating compared to when I wasn’t. Once I find the photograph, I just bring it into Photoshop, airbrush things, make it all how I would for client work, then completely destroy it; add grain, distort the faces, and burn the edges with light leaks.


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TP: How do you source the images? Are the images from different photographers? Who are the photographers?
JH:
There are definitely a number of photographers involved at this point. As I mentioned before, this project is in an exciting transition into my own photography or only working with the community of photographers I’ve met. I used to spend all my time on Adobe stock or places like Unsplash digging through photos and saving them. It began feeling so impersonal and I needed to get back to my roots even if it meant less content. When I started working with other photographers, I was lucky there was so much talent in Austin. It was never a problem to find someone who wanted to play. Then to be working with photographers from California to New York just expounded that feeling. This allowed me to expand the scenery of the project while getting to know other creatives that I would have never met otherwise.

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TP: Do you have a plan before you begin a work or do you follow improvise?
JH:
This differs from work to work. Some of my post come from me having an idea and taking the picture with the model in the exact position I need, while others come from me digging through the stockpile of photography and waiting till an idea resonates. I don’t touch a photo unless I immediately see what I can to do with it. I think it is that immediate thrill of feeling inspired to do something that carries this project for me. All of the art under Circle Circle Math is for me to let off steam and explore. The last thing I want to do is to create for the sake of having to put something out. Luckily I find myself inspired often.

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TP: What’s your opinion on glitch as a whole? Where’s it headed as an artistic language?
JH:
I’m fascinated by art history and how small movements took off and are still studied to this day. While you’re in it, it’s always hard to classify what’s considered a trend versus a movement. But there is no denying with the evolution of technology we have given birth to a new digital art movement. Similar to music, we saw a shift from something tangible and warm, like vinyl records, all the way to streaming songs in perfect quality. Once we hit a pinnacle of perfection in music we saw a resurgence of musicians recording on analogue to get the warm noise to fill up the space, putting out vinyls, or producing something like dubstep, which in its own way was a beautiful and orchestrated mess. I view glitch art as something similar for us digital artist. It’s a way to show a bit more authenticity in a world of perfection.

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TP: What else do you do that’s creative?
JH:
I’ve always needed some creative outlet to toss my energy into. I attended school for music and played it for many years, but recently found my creative voice guiding me in other directions. Between photography, this weird and wonderful project, video work, and client work I stay creatively fulfilled. I’m always looking for something to grab my attention. There’s an excitement in seeing what’s possible just underneath the surface.

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TP: What have you got lined up that you’re excited about in the future?
JH:
I have some exciting projects coming up in October. One of the few I am allowed to talk about, is very personal to me. It’s a project I am launching called Past Selves. This all came about by inheriting boxes upon boxes of photography from my family. It’s going to be similar to my Circle Circle Math’s aesthetics, but everything will be analogue and from my family’s past. There are also a few video projects coming out for different musicians soon, it feels like a natural progression working on music videos. It’s always thrilling to take what you learned in one medium and bringing it to another. As for the rest, I’ll just say stay tuned in. 

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