Photographer Thankful to Laptop Thief for New Creative Direction


Having your laptop and photographs stolen usually isn’t a good thing, but for photographer Melanie Willhide, it actually helped her career move forward.

David Rosenberg of Slate reports that Willhide, a fine art photographer based in Los Angeles, had her laptop and backup drive stolen.

After giving up hope that she would ever see her images again, she received a happy surprise when the police department called to inform her that her computer had been found through a traffic stop.

When she got her computer back, there was another letdown: the thief had wiped her data and had been using the computer as his own. In an attempt to recover anything she could, Willhide decided to use recovery software on the hard drive.

As the recovered images started appearing on the screen, it was clear that there had been damage done to them by data corruption. However, Willhide didn’t complain — she was actually pleased with what had happened to the photos.

So please, in fact, that she turned the “glitch art” photographs into a series titled To Adrian Rodriguez, With Love (warning: a few of the images in the series are NSFW). The project is a tribute to Adrian Rodriguez, the laptop thief.


In addition to refining the photos that were “glitched by the thief,” Willhide also taught herself how to artificially glitch photos with the same aesthetic using Photoshop.

You can check out the series over at the Von Lintel Gallery in New York or over on Willhide’s website.

“To Adrian Rodriguez with Love” by Melanie Willhide (via HuffPo via The Phoblographer)

Image credits: Photographs by Melanie Willhide

  • bayek

    There’s an idea for another Instagram filter app :)

  • whisky

    this technique is at least a decade old. it’s called “dumpster diving” — or recovering files from your erased and written over flash memory cards.

  • Fuzztographer

    Didn’t think she’d ever see them again? Who in their right mind does photography for a career and *doesn’t* backup their photos?

  • Michael Palmer

    Seriously? Urgh.

  • Yuki Glasgow

    laptop and backup drive stolen… perhaps she didn’t have time to make a backup backup to store in a separate place

  • Jeremy Madore

    Was totally just going to post this…

  • Jeremy Madore

    I would love to see someone go through her images and patchwork the original back together from them, just as a challenge! Some appear easier than others, and I dare say I might be able to tell which are naturally ruined vs. photoshopped.

  • Joe

    Ahh yes. Fine Art. Where corrupted files turn into purposeful fine art that one can sell. BRILLIANT!!

  • 9inchnail

    So annoying that in contemporary art context seems to matter more than content. Doesn’t matter how boring your photos are as long as they were shot in an unconventional way.

  • SgtBoognish

    I am surprised to say it but in my opinion most of those images are really beautiful and interesting! The end justifies the weird means, I’d say. (PS I think the beauty of these images has nothing to do with how they were created.)

  • Richard Ford

    Backup means at least 2 sets of backups. With one off site. Anything less is just a duplicate. Especially if carried with the computer.

  • Ant Joby

    She was most likey onsite at a gig when the theft happened and had not made it back home to offload the images from her laptop and backup drive. What was she supposed to do? Upload LARGE hi-res files to a cloud network while onsite at a job? Tell me any of you do that and I’ll give you my old 5DM2

  • Richard Ford

    You really are dense aren’t you? Read the article again. She lost all her work. Even the recovered photos (originals) all come from different scenes.

    What is most likely is that you just created a posting of fiction to help make a point that doesn’t need to be made. Unless you have more information than we do about this “gig”. Was Manbearpig playing lead along side The Loch Ness monster and the two fiddy backup singers?

  • Ollie

    I agree, I’ve lstudied glitch art before, and purposefully glitched images myself and they looked nothing like this. I think they’re faked. The glitches are too “neat”.

  • Ant Joby

    I bet if this discussion were in a closed room where everyone were in touching distance of one another you would not be so loose with your comments. Typical internet big mouth coward.