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Jan 2003 / the ordinary eye :: email this story to a friend

Step In and Say "Cheese"
By Andrea Avery

I've always been a sucker for a photo booth. I could have washed a year's worth of cars rolling off the assembly line in Fenton with the number of quarters I plunked into the photo booth at the old Grandpa's store on Chippewa. The money wasn't spent for vanity's sake, I assure you. I think it was the absurd allusion of privacy that sucked me in. Mugging for the camera in my own little cozy Formica booth while mothers in snug sweat suits coaxed fists full of candy from screaming toddlers at the check out line...ah, those were the days.

Tim Garrett took his passion for the photo booth experience even further, buying his own booth in April of 2002 for his wedding. His fascination began when he was around ten and found on the floor of a mall, a photo strip of a couple making out. Attracted and repulsed by the image, he began sketching photo booth scenes and later, while attending college, began haunting the booth at The Children's Museum in Boston until he was officially banned. "I guess they got tired of me bringing in suitcases full of props," he explains. Garrett's images stretch the boundaries of traditional photo booth strips, often composing each of the four frames into one continuous image. The results can be at once humorous and haunting.

The booth was a huge hit at his wedding and Garrett now rents out the 800-pound beauty with "insides like a Tim Burton film" for special events, such as the upcoming Mad Art Anniversary Show. He is also working on a photo booth art book and his work will be featured in a March show at the gallery.

Most diehard photo boothers prefer black and white, settle for color, and eschew the newer digital or Polaroid booths. There are entire websites devoted to photo booth locations, photo booth projects, and sharing strips. The impulse to sneak in and act silly is difficult to resist for many, as some of the following images illustrate.

The first six images are from Garrett's collection. Most of the remaining images were created in his booth while it was recently on loan at Mad Art Gallery. Click on the thumbnail to see the full image.

Andrea Avery is a St. Louis artist and writer who not only misses Grandpa's, but drive-ins and The Dream Academy.

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