You can see a Pinterest page of my inspirations here.
Maintaining the physical aspects of the photobooth picture was important to me – I wanted to have a direct physical track from the photo being taken, through the subject handling it and looking it, to the images being cut, chosen, put in the album then reviewed again. I didn’t want to work with digital images on this one.
The first physical thing that I needed to source was the smile prop. It was harder than I thought because I wanted a smile rather than a pout, and I didn’t want an overtly sexualised smile. I also needed something strong enough to cope with enthusiastic handling and being carried in a bag. After a couple of tries I ended up with a wooden smile on wire which worked well. I wanted to use the same smile in each photograph to give the idea of a smile as a commodity, a currency.
I asked all participants to wear a black, white or grey top, I wanted to limit the amount of colour in each image so that the smile stood out and to reduce distractions within each image. One of the learning points I had from A1 was that making outfit choices early on can improve the images.
For presentation I was very tempted by the idea of a small chipboard album like this. I wanted to use papers with a small-scale black and white print as a background to each page – the black and white to fit with the colour scheme in Amelie and the traditional black and white photobooth photos. I very much like Lauren Child’s use of multiple textures and media in her childrens’ books. As the number of participants mushroomed I had to re-think this plan as the album would have been too thick. I had re-watched the film Amelie at my tutor’s suggestion, and I liked the album of found photobooth images in that. After a bit of research I narrowed the choice down to two albums with self-adhesive pages- one Paris themed, and one with a plain black cover that could be custom-printed. I chose the second option (as there was no link to Paris other than watching Amelie) and I had the album printed with “Give us a smile”. I was very happy with the result.
Picture layout took a fair bit of thought and I can probably improve on it. Photos came out of the machine printed as a 3×2 grid containing five different images and some data. I chose to work with two photographs of each participant and arranged them in eight sets of three and one of two, so AAB, BCC, DDE, EFF and so on. In retrospect I could have worked with 3 images per page still, but used 3 pictures of each person and ordered the images ABC, BCD, CDE, DEF etc to get more variety and rhythm into the set. I couldn’t do one page per person firstly because it felt a little static and secondly because it would have left me with seven blank sides in the album. I was very inspired by Hans Eijkelboom’s film of Birmingham clothing typologies and the rhythm he imbued into that. I wanted to do something with the “spare” square in the grid – the one with the date, time and booth id. There is only one such square per person so I included those on the left hand side of each double page spread. A photobooth image is unusual in that it provides no contextualising or environmental information at all – indeed the lack of this information and the distinctive lighting and physical format is what helps to identify the image as a photobooth shot. I wanted to provide some context however, so chose to include the information, regarding it as the photobooth equivalent to EXIF data.
I remain very grateful to everyone who volunteered to be involved with this work or who volunteered their children and gave permission for me to use the images. Everyone who took part was given the three unused images and the opportunity to have sight of the album either before or after it went to my tutor.