Several years ago, Berlin-based documentary and travel photographer Polina Efremova discovered a unique type of datamosh glitch. The accidental discovery happened when Efremova installed a new video player on a very old PC. When she tried to play her videos on the player, glitches would appear from time to time, which she would eventually capture as screengrabs, turning the glitchy scenes into still photographs. The body of work, which Efremova calls Destruction, displays one way to capture a unique moment that can never again be reproduced.
"What interests me most in the process is that a random faulty configuration of a piece of software leads to results that are uncontrollable, not replicable," Efremova tells Creators. "That reminds me of analog photography, where a process of film developing is often unpredictable. [And] I love the idea that an old computer that otherwise would have no more use or value serves as a unique tool that cannot be replicated by anyone."
Efremova first discovered the effect in 2013, just as glitch was in the process of become an aesthetic trend. She doesn't even remember why she decided to run video from her Canon 5D on the old PC.
"I don't know what went wrong (or, actually, right), but I saw this beautiful image, this image which is falling apart, like pixels blowing off and into the wind, making the still from the video look surreal and scary, because the world is falling apart," says Efremova. "I loved this feeling a lot and started taking screenshots."
Efremova later put the project on hold after learning that glitch effects could be reproduced artificially. For her, the project had lost its worth—at least temporarily. Now that datamosh and glitch fervor have died down, respectively, she is returning to the project.
The process of creating these datamoshed photographs is an interesting one: for a moment, the video runs correctly, but soon begins to lag, pause, and eventually crash. This is the moment when Efremova takes the screenshot.
"When you press play again, you can't get back and it won't be repeated again," Efremova says. "This is the most valuable aspect for me. I used to shoot on film and can compare this feeling to film photography, where not everything depends on you—there is always an input of abruptness."
"This computer is something that I cherish as my tool," she adds. "I can compare [it] to a modern analog of some old broken camera that gives a unique result."
Efremova has also used the technique to produce videos that she describes as in the "mood of surreal dissociation, dissolution of reality." While she is still adding to Destruction, Efremova is also working on a big archive of photographs, while posting travel and documentary photography on her Instagram account.
Click here to check out Polina Efremova's other photographs.