April 15, 2009

2009 International Photobooth Convention

So, it’s been a week or so since it ended, and the 2009 International Photobooth Convention is retreating in our collective rear view mirror. Those attendees who made the trek from the U.K., from New York and San Francisco, from Vermont and Massachusetts, from Minnesota and Ohio, and from around the greater Chicago area, have all returned home. The organizers have left Logan Square for far flung Los Angeles, St Louis, and Oak Park, and it’s time to reflect on what went on during the night and long day of the event.

From my perspective, the event was a huge success. Thanks to the hard work of a lot of people, not the least of whom were Anthony, providing his photobooths and preparing the event on the ground in Chicago; Tim, bringing in folks from all over the country and keeping things under control with his unflappable cool; and our hosts at Center Portion Sheila and Greg, we had a smooth and relatively chaos-free event. Without any major issues to worry about, we were able to appreciate the company of the photobooth enthusiasts, technicians, artists, kids, and passersby who attended, all enjoying the shared experience and the luxury of unlimited photobooth pictures.

Some of the highlights for me were first of all meeting Anthony, with whom we’d corresponded and spoken over the previous few months, since the idea of a convention in Chicago was first floated last August. Tim and I had been involved in our first International Photobooth Convention in 2005, just a few months after we’d begun this site, so this time around, I felt a lot more comfortable in the world of the photobooth, and had made a lot more connections, discoveries, and acquaintances that proved helpful in the meantime .

One such connection was with Martin of, who had gotten in touch through the website a few weeks before the convention and offered a collaborative project for convention-goers in Chicago to participate in. In the Schnellfoto booth in Moscow, various people offered questions to Chicagoans, written in Russian on cards and held up to the camera in the photobooth. Martin FedEx’ed the strips, with translations, to me, and I brought them to Chicago, where we distributed them to people to answer with a response photostrip. The project attracted a lot of enthusiasm, and we got some terrific, witty, and creative answers. I’m in the middle of assembling a small booklet of the questions and answers side by side, which we’ll make available on the site when I’m finished.

2009 International Photobooth Convention

Steve “Mixup” Howard, the founding father of the International Photobooth Convention, made the trek from England, and, along with Nakki Goranin and Dina Stander, made up the core group of returnees from our previous convention in 2005. It was great to see them again, and to have their art and collections hanging on the walls of the gallery, just like last time. We made some new friends this time, putting faces with names we’d emailed with over the years, including Danny Minnick from San Francisco; Connie Begg, proud owner of a new (old) photobooth, also from the Bay Area; and Carole and Siobhan of Photomovette in London, who are busy preparing to reintroduce the photochemical booth to London after a few years of painful absence.

2009 International Photobooth Convention

The panel discussion on day two was also a highlight, as Tim led a talk among the hosts and distinguished guests, including Anthony, Mixup, Nakki, and Nick Osborn of and co-author of the fantastic new book Who We Were: A Snapshot History of America.

Despite the long series of late nights spent preparing, enjoying, and then cleaning up after the convention, we were even able to get in a little photobooth-hunting, as Tim, Danny, and I hit three photobooths to add to our directory: Quenchers, Weegee’s Lounge, and Bar Deville. By the end of it all, there was fleeting talk of doing it all again in a year (or two or three), so we’ll see what happens. Thanks to everyone who came for making it a terrific event.

Check out the official wrap-up page for the convention, and stay tuned for the online gallery of artwork and other multimedia from the event.

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