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Interview: Seamus Ryan, founder of Boothnation, on The World's First Photobooth Festival


We snuck behind the scenes of the World's first Photobooth Festival with acclaimed photographer and founder of Boothnation, Seamus Ryan.


RunRiot: How did you come up with the concept of a Photobooth festival?

Seamus Ryan: The idea came from two of our core activities – I’ve held an open studio each Sunday for the last seven years at our base next to Columbia Road. Members of the public join me in an ongoing portraiture project called Sunday Shoots. Then about six years ago I started experimenting with photo booths. The business has gone from strength to strength and we now have a whole range of quirky photo booths all hand made in Shoreditch. They have been a big hit at all sorts of events, retail promotions and private parties.

RR:What's your earliest photobooth memory?

SR:Woolworth’s in South Dublin when I was about 9 years old, larking about with a school friend. We had a mock fight. Very bad acting as I remember but we thought we looked like Fraser and Ali.

RR:How bad is your worst passport photo? Can we see it?

SR: I have a vast collection of terrible poses from years of testing the booths. This one is particularly unpleasant.


RR:What's the greatest number of people you've ever squeezed into a booth with?

SR: We have a giant booth that shoots full length fashion shots which could easily take twenty. Our normal booths are much smaller which is why I think we get such compelling group shots. They really have to get intimate to fit in. The best I’ve seen is eleven (all faces fully in shot). It took them about eight goes to get it right. They emerged lathered in sweat but proud of their achievement.

RR: And the strangest place you've ever found a photobooth?

SR: Our booths have been to all sorts of unusual places from the top of the Gerkin to inside an African hut at a very muddy Glastonbury. The one that sticks out though is when our Toddlerbooth went on tour with Huggies in a giant inflatable potty.


RR:Why do you think people are so excited by photobooths these days? Is it the unpredictability of the outcome in an age where we're used to just deleting any digital snaps we don't like? The novelty of getting an actual, tangible photograph? Or the chance to share the experience with friends?

SR: All of the above are factors but I have a couple of other theories. Firstly, and I can say this because I am a portrait photographer, nothing in photography comes close to the liberating experience one can have using a photobooth. There is no photographer directing and the curtain provides just enough privacy for a few moments of self expression. You can literally go bonkers in there and walk away moments later with an amazing print. The booths I have designed for Boothnation all have lighting as their most important feature. I can’t tell you how grateful people are when they have been beautifully lit. In the digital age everyone enjoys taking pictures but sadly very few know how to light so we are all used to seeing bad pictures of ourselves. Flattering lighting is almost a form of therapy for many people.

RR: What can we expect at the festival this weekend?

SR: The Festival is going to be where great fun meets great photography. We want people to experience and experiment with a wide range of genres and styles, to engage with photography in a uniquely different way. Be fabulous in The Powder Room Booth with free makeovers from The Powder Puff Girls, plunge beneath the waves in the Underwater booth, bask in 50’s Britishness in the Jubilee Booth, go glamping in the campervan booth or do some vogueing in the Discobooth. The Toddlerbooth is the world’s smallest photo booth so tiny tots are very welcome. Great coffee from Bean About Town and summer beats from the wonderful Rough Trade DJs. All that and more should add up to a very special day.


Details of The World's First Photobooth Festival can be found here.