These Blurry Prime Minister Portraits Reveal How Governments Change Without Really Changing

How much does each administration really change? Visually, we mean.

Many in the U.K. are still a bit dazed by the recent election, which saw the conservative party unexpectedly grab an astonishing number of seats, ensuring David Cameron would remain prime minister. Perhaps Alan Warburton‘s work would make some of the country’s liberals feel better. In his series Transitions I he used motion blurring photography software to track the country’s political changes by comparing portraits of the U.K.’s prime ministers.


Warburton’s series compares portraits and photos of each prime minister with that of the next. Up till the era of photographs, Warburton uses painted portraits for his comparisons. His warped images stretch back through the history of the United Kingdom tracking each government shake up.

For the project, Warburton used software that’s normally meant to show a blur between two identically framed images where movement has occurred. For example, in a photo of someone throwing the ball, the ball would appear blurred between where it was in the first and second photo.

But according to Warburton, when implemented in his project, it forced “the algorithm to do something it wasn’t designed to do: identify similar constellations of pixels in very different images.” Over the last few years Warburton has experimented with the algorithm, allowing it more or less freedom in interpreting the photos. By adjusting these settings, he found he could elicit an artistic effect from the software, making these portraits look like a painting that’s been smeared.

The artist says the project is a way to abstractly visualize problems in a bipartisan system where politicians’ views tend to resemble one another. Warburton’s images are blurry, yet they’re still recognizable, demonstrating the demographic homogeneity at play in British politics–for example, every Prime Minister is white.

“These wild, grotesque and distorted portraits seem to me to come closer to reality than our conventionally static political portraits,” he says. “They speak about transitions rather than stasis.” Warburton is currently working on a new series using United States presidents.

[via Nerdcore ]

About the author

I'm a writer living in Bushwick, Brooklyn. Interests include social justice, cats, and the future.