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photobooth contest – guest blogger

July 12, 2010

I mentioned a few weeks ago that one of the photobooth contest’s judges would also be a guest blogger during the summer. Meags Fitzgerald is currently down under in Australia teaching improvisation, but she was kind enough to send us this bit of insight in to the life and mind of a photobooth addict from the San Francisco airport…

The time in between. (by Meags Fitzgerald)

Meags and a friend, Emily Davidson in 2003

Photobooths are a very familiar space to me and there are many aspects to them that I could write about; the line they walk between private and public spaces, the inner mechanics of a non digital machine, their role as a preserver of fleeting moments,the simple capitalist exchange of currency for product, the dynamics between the poser and a photographer-less camera…. but when talking about “the wait”, the collector or artist in me become less apparent and the what’s left are the signs of an addict.

Example of “post production” modification, summer 2009

Like most addicts, I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I started indulging myself with frequent trips to the nearest photobooth in high school. Like most teenagers, I innocently enjoyed popping into a photobooth with my friends and taking candid photos. I did it in part for the nearly-instant gratification, for novelty’s sake and sure, a little bit out of a teenage self-absorption. Though, unlike most teenagers by grade twelve I had to get my “fix” at least twice a week and I started amassing a fairly large collection. My collection grew from something I carried in my wallet, to having a small purse of its own, to a 1” binder, and now to two large leather binders in archival plastic sheets divided into four categories and organized chronologically.

When I first started “boothing”, the three minutes I spent waiting for photos to develop were agonizing. I got a thrill from the anticipation and loved the surprise. After boothing for a few years (and maturing a little), just waiting to see how pictures of me turned out wasn’t providing a thrill anymore. So I came up with riskier and more elaborate ideas to “up the ante”. I started storyboarding narratives for my pictures and bringing in different backgrounds, props, costumes, mirrors and external light sources, I call this pre-production modification.  (Altering the images after they’ve been developed is what I call post-production modification.) I factored in the proximity of photobooths when chose new apartments. I always had a few ideas up my sleeves and $4 in my wallet. I learnt the peculiarities of certain booths, instinctively knew the beats between frames and was usually just finishing cleaning-up whatever concoction I made when the photos came out. The three minute wait virtually vanished.

However at this time “the wait” was no longer the three minutes but the days between visits. I don’t think there are many aspects to addiction would be classified as healthy, but for me this wait, in the time where there is an absence of photobooths, is the most productive time to think creatively. I try to push what photobooth pictures are supposed to be and use the media outside of its original intentions. My biggest inspiration in the field would undoubtedly be the works of German artist Jan Wensel.

Writing this also got me thinking about how to quantify “waiting” in a way that is more than abstract. I wanted to know the hard numbers and the so I got out the calculator. I have spent almost 20 hours waiting for photobooth pictures to develop. Now, 20 hours doesn’t seem that long, it’s not even a day, but I’ve tried to think about this number in other terms. That’s more time than it takes to fly half way around the world, from Edmonton, Canada to Sydney, Australia. That’s about the same length of time it would take to watch all six of the Stars Wars movies, and then watch all four Indiana Jones right after. That’s enough time to ride the average rollercoaster 300 times in a row. In that time you could get and get over food poisoning. And theoretically, if you type at an average speed you could write a 39,600 word essay.

"Film Stills" from first photobooth animation, "Birth of a Genius"

Over the years photobooths have become a really gratifying creative outlet for me. They’re a space that is built for experimentation (a box that you literally have to think outside of.) My collection is a visual diary and it thoroughly documents the last eight years of my life. I have no intention of stopping. I’m addicted.

Strip (made over four different visits) of light meeting dark, summer 2010

…thanks for the inspiration Meags! Now keep those contest entries coming in – 7 weeks remain!

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. July 12, 2010 8:32 pm

    … now that’s very inspirational.

    currently filling my head with ideas… enough to experiment and keep me busy once that “undiscoverable” photobooth pops-up here in the middle east!

  2. 7treehouses permalink
    July 13, 2010 7:15 am

    Wow. Just, wow…

  3. August 22, 2010 9:45 am

    Very cool!! What a fantastic idea! You’ve really produced some great images. I love the idea of telling a story through the frames. So creative!

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