“A slow-paced antidote for quick attention spans”: Image Breakers helps us absorb digital images

Meet the new magazine founded by Glasgow-based designer Tom Joyes rethinking how we consume digital content.

Date
11 December 2020
Reading Time
4 minute read

We first met Tom Joyes back in 2016 when the designer appeared on our annual showcase of graduates. He’d just graduated from The Glasgow School of Art, which he followed up with a Master’s degree in The Netherlands, and a design role at the esteemed London-based studio, Kellenberger White. Now, to top off an impressive entry into the creative industry, he’s embarked on a new endeavour, a new independent magazine, Image Breakers, which he singlehandedly art directs and edits. Launched last month, the platform delves into our relationship with digital images and those who make them.

Featuring interviews, images and screenings from some of the most exciting names in the industry today, Image Breakers covers the likes of Simone C Niquille, Inji Seo, Nicolas Tian, Alice Bucknell, Nikita Diakur, Zak Keene, Sgáire Wood, Alfie Dwyer, and Maurice Andresen (along with a handful more). These artists’ skillsets stretch far and wide across CGI, animation, make-up and illustration – but there is one common factor which unites their practices under the umbrella of Image Breakers. Each and every one uses digital images to further the work.

Digital imagery is familiar to us social-media-using, Netflix-watching, phone-addicted users. But how often can we say the depths of this realm are interrogated? In weekly interviews, images and videos, Image Breakers seeks to explore the coded corners through accessible discussions (not to mention alluring visuals) in aid of a more critical discourse surrounding those who makes digital images and the work itself. All this and more can be found on the Image Breakers website. It’s split up into sections: interviews, a screening channel (which hopes to show original commissions and collaborations in the future), plus a magazine section which categorises its featured work by medium or technique.

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Tom Joyes in collaboration Theo Ford: Image Breakers (Copyright © Tom Joyes, 2020)

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Tom Joyes in collaboration Theo Ford: Image Breakers (Copyright © Tom Joyes, 2020)

Tom tells us of how Image Breakers initially came about: “It developed from a desire to decode how images are made and why, assess our relationship to digital images and make the voice of queer image-makers visible.” Instead of adding to the oversaturated market of digital content out there today, Image Breakers was in fact created as an antithesis to overconsumption. As the founder puts it, “It’s a chance to sit back and absorb these images – a slow-paced antidote for quick attention spans.”

Most of us are used to digesting digital content in a slap-dash, immediate and often largely thankless way. In order to tackle this, some digital image creators muster the loudest visuals in their arsenal to grab the viewer’s attention, something that can take arduous amounts of time and refinement. On the opposite end of the spectrum, other images are designed to be understood in a flash – a different kind of skill mastered by the very best meme creators; communication aided by a lo-fi aesthetic achievable to almost anyone with access to a computer or phone.

In a similar way, Tom wants to establish a new way of viewing and understanding digital work through the new magazine. He uses the analogy of Warp Records and its compilation record Artificial Intelligence released in 1992. The record marked the beginning of what is known as “Intelligent Dance Music” (IDM). Tom continues: “It encouraged listeners to consume dance music in a new way, suggesting it should be enjoyed in listening sessions at home or while working, taking electronic music away from the the dance floor of clubs.” The designer remembers the cover, a CGI image by Phil Wolstenholme depicting an android smoking a joint. Inside the sleeve, short interviews were found with the contributing artists, revealing thoughts on their respective interests and their hopes for dance music’s future.

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Nikita Diakur: Fest, 2018, Video still (Copyright © Nikita Diakur, 2020)

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Zak Keene: 3 Drinkers, 2020, Digital painting (Copyright © Zak Keene, 2020)

Applying the same ideas of reinterpretation to digital artworks, Tom is utilising the strategy behind this shift in dance music for Image Breakers, which hopes to evolve the world of queer imagery in particular. You don’t need formal training to get a feature as the platform is decisively centred on unconventional categories that refuse to be shoehorned into the “artist” or “designer” mould. A creative could be entirely self-taught having learnt their skills on YouTube or Instagram, asserts Tom, “most likely bedroom-based nerds with a love for creating images”. Fundamentally, the platform shines a light on those combining technical processes with a critical understanding of the medium to make “intelligent images” which can be read on a number of varying levels.

Organised and conceived entirely in bedrooms – a hint to our post-Covid world, not to mention the bedroom’s symbolism as “a space of production, an environment for connecting, entertainment and sleep” – Image Breakers embodies these notions throughout its visual identity. In a series of animations created for the launch by CGI image maker Ignasi Casas, the visuals pay tribute to the bedroom’s role in the creative process while at the same time aesthetically embodying how the magazine came together. Tom, for example, himself learnt to code during the first lockdown, which allowed him to build the initial structure of the website. He then collaborated with designer and developer Theo Ford, who helped refine the platform into the visually striking yet smooth website Image Breakers is today.

Tom Joyes in collaboration Ignasi Casas: Image Breakers (Copyright © Tom Joyes, 2020)

Tom Joyes in collaboration Ignasi Casas: Image Breakers (Copyright © Tom Joyes, 2020)

Tom Joyes in collaboration Ignasi Casas: Image Breakers (Copyright © Tom Joyes, 2020)

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Tom Joyes in collaboration Theo Ford: Image Breakers (Copyright © Tom Joyes, 2020)

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Tom Joyes in collaboration Theo Ford: Image Breakers (Copyright © Tom Joyes, 2020)

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Inji Seo: 맵고 짜고 단거, 2020, Digital painting (Copyright © Inji Seo, 2020)

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Ch444n: Hungerchan, 2020, Digital painting (Copyright © Ch444n, 2020)

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About the Author

Jyni Ong

Jyni became a staff writer in March 2019 having previously joined the team as an editorial assistant in August 2018. She graduated from The Glasgow School of Art with a degree in Communication Design in 2017 and her previous roles include Glasgow Women’s Library designer in residence and The Glasgow School of Art’s Graduate Illustrator.

jo@itsnicethat.com

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