April 15, 2009


I am tempted to lobby for a name change of the convention to “Photobooth Family Reunion” as I feel it captures the spirit of event much more accurately than our tongue-in-cheek use of the term “convention.” I know some disparage the family reunion with an eye-roll and the chuckle reserved for a scene from a National Lampoon Family Vacation, but my experiences with said reunions are solid gold. This year’s convention was no exception, and it had all the requisite parts: the relatives you look forward to seeing from reunions past (Nakki, Dina), the patriarch of the family keeping an eye on all the festivities (Mixup), the famous great uncle whom you’ve heard stories about for years but never met (Todd Erickson), the relatives you meet and love, but never knew you had (Carole, Siobhan, Connie), the cool relative from California that you wish lived closer (Danny), all the family members you knew existed, but didn’t know their names until now (all the artists, attendees, and Center Portion gang), and of course, the perpetual family cheerleaders, the reunion organizers who are never quite sure anyone else likes reunions as much as they do (Anthony, Brian, and me!). And need I mention, what family reunion is complete without a boatload of photographs (both archival and emerging)? Then you have the few uncles who bust out family videos for everyone to watch (the shorts program, the documentary on the booth innards) and the genealogy-obsessed aunt who organizes a sit-down Q&A with the oldest members of the family in order to hear stories soon to be lost in time (the panel discussion). Throw in a few art projects for the kids (the altered photo workshop and Russian “space bridge” project) and some general revelry, and you’ve got all the necessary ingredients. The only thing missing, in my estimation, was jello salad.


Anthony proved a more-than-capable host, navigating the grassroots art scene in Chicago to provide us with commemorative convention buttons (via Busy Beaver Button Company) and a fantastic silkscreened convention poster (from artist Shawn Stucky) as well as generously commandeering a portion of his photobooth fleet and faithful support staff (thanks Andrea, Eric, Carol, and Brad) for use at the convention. Be sure to check out Anthony’s vast array of artistic and economic involvements.

Brian already mentioned it, but it bears repeating: Sheila, Greg, and family were awesome. Thanks to them for their attentive but laid-back hospitality. If you live in and around Chicago, keep an eye on the schedule of events at the Center Portion. You won’t be disappointed.

Brian (in true form) failed to mention his amazing talk on the history of photobooths in cinema. It was an updated and expanded version of the (stellar) talk he gave in St. Louis during the 2005 Convention. When I introduced Brian, I said his talk was my favorite part of the last convention — and I wasn’t kidding. His talk is something that would be appreciated by a much larger audience — perhaps we can convince him to post some version of it online someday.

Special thanks to the folks who agreed (some of them on very short notice) to sit as part of the panel discussion I moderated: Nakki, Nick, Mixup, Brian, and Anthony. If we are able to salvage any footage from the two video cameras that ran out of batteries, we’ll post a portion of the fireside chat. I really enjoyed the different perspectives the panelists brought and only wished it could have lasted longer. We only scratched the surface.

tshirt.JPGTravel for me is always much more about the people and much less about the place — this trip to Chicago was filled with wonderful and kind people, some old and some new. I did manage to see some of my Chicago peeps (Kenner, Maureen, Nils, Joanie — thanks for coming out!) and was generously housed by cousin Doug and fed by cousin Hayes (my own mini family reunion).

There was some chatter about the next convention and there seems to be growing support for having them more regularly. When asked about the dates of the next convention, Brian and I always answer with a smile, “When are you willing to host it?” We look forward to the next gathering, whenever that might be.

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