Surreal 360° Portraits Slice The Human Head Into Rotating Parts

Artist Rollin Leonard likes to distort the human face for his dynamic and uncanny images.

Kevin Holmes

360° / 18 Lilia

Rollin Leonard is what you might call a resourceful artist--using a swivel chair, some paper, a cat's laser toy, and a camera he's created two dynamic portraits which utilize a concept known as highly composite numbers for his project 360°. The portraits are a bust of a model which are broken down into nine and 18 different slices which rotate at different speeds on a 24 second and 36 second loop, respectively.

The result is the human head seen in 360 degrees, but with different parts seen at different times, presented with an uncanny motion. Leonard's work often manipulates studio photography to create GIFs and videos that play around with perceptions of the human face--dicing, stretching, and distorting it. "I'm playing with simple systems falling in and out of synchronicity" he says. He chooses the face as a subject because it's something we all relate to and empathise with, something we have "the highest possible pattern recognition for".

"In the case of 360 / 18 Lilia I wanted to play this innate ability against the scrambling pattern of the video." he explains. "As it rotates you'll notice when only a few are in sync that you'll tend to mentally complete the head."

360° / 9 Lilia

To create the effect was a painstaking process with the model having to sit, legs folded, in a chair while Leonard rotated her 1 degree at a time using his specially built protactor--with the laser pointer aimed at an array of degrees drawn on the floor while the chair swivelled. Once he'd completered the shots, Leonard strung them together and corrected the jerky motion of the movement by rotating and nudging the shots in Photoshop before exporting to video. 

"The reason I bothered to go through all of this instead of simply shooting it in video was there would be absolutely no motion blur, the rotation would be perfectly even (and a countable number of frames), and I could use studio flashes to make tiny, measured changes to the lighting. I wanted it to have a silvery, film-like appearance and to look as still and statue-like as possible."

360° / 18 Lilia

360° / 9 Lilia