Published January 31, 2018
“I’m a huge geek about the technical stuff,” says Raphaël Alexandre. He’s describing how he built his very own, unique interpretation of a photo booth from nothing but a cell-phone-like camera, a small computer, a light, some chords, some curtains, and some wood.
He’s also agreed to let me try out the photo booth before it opens to the public at his photo exhibition this week. This actually works out for us both. Because it’s the second incarnation of the booth itself, he needs a beta-tester. And me, I must admit that I’m just selfishly excited to have the booth all to myself. I even wore my shiniest jacket.
“I’ve never done any photography nor anything like it,” admits Raphaël, to my surprise. Despite this, he proves he’s certainly no stranger to art. Now on a residency at Listastofan in collaboration with The Alliance Française de Reykjavík, Raphaël has completed two previous artist residencies in his four years living in Iceland. One, installed at a beach in Siglufjörður, was a huge music box that played music according to where you placed stones on the beach. The other, based on a folktale about a witch in Eyrarbakki, “was more like a Disneyland installation.” It was a shed whose lights inside reacted to the footsteps of anyone who enters, accompanied by a woman in a white dress who illuminates when touched. He wasn’t kidding about his technical geekery.
Raphaël got the idea from “light painting,” where a photographer uses long exposures and LED lights to create drawings in a photograph. “It’s so underexploited,” he explains. “You could do so much more with it if you control the light in a better way.” He thought about using a 3D printer to print designs from light paintings before taking a step back. “I simplified it by just describing a spiral, unlike the other things I wanted to do. That’s how the idea came and refined itself.” Like its name, the project began with the light, or “lumiere” in French.
A spiral of light was not quite enough, however. “I wanted to make it more social, too. I didn’t want to just work on a project by myself like I usually do. I wanted to have people involved.” So after putting his technical skills to work (with some woodworking help from YouTube along the way) to build the actual booth itself, he enlisted the social aspect. Over the course of several weeks, dozens of peopled sat in the booth and modeled for the project. Forgive the cliché, but the resulting series of photographs is nothing short of luminous.
Each set against the stark black background, the variations in light and visage create a surprisingly diverse range of effects. Some faces are stoic while others are jubilant. Some a clear and still while others are blurred with motion. As he flips through the photos to show me, a couple of surprises illicit laughs.
Before I can even ask if he tried the booth with objects, one photo shows an iridescent purse shining like the Holy Grail. “Objects are the easiest because they don’t move at all,” he laughs, “and this was very special because it’s super reflective.” One photo even features a grinning dog.
This light-hearted social element gives the project the second half of its name. “Kura,” he explains, comes from “purikura, a Japanese-style photo booth where you can add ‘kawaii’ stuff” (cutesy stickers) to the photos. Naturally, a photo booth whose photos are decorated with light instead would be exactly that: Lumikura.
Light Up Your Life
The photo booth is equipped with a tablet that allows to you to see each photo right after it’s taken and either delete it or save it to a database where you can later get the file. Because you can choose the beginning of the spiral and the placement of the stool, you’d be surprised by the variety of outcomes you can create simply by sitting still for six seconds. So whether you’re a photographer curious to experiment or a vainglorious Instagram queen in search of the ultimate selfie (or both), now is your chance to experience Lumikura for yourself.
The photo booth will be available to the public during the gallery opening, Thursday, 1st of February at 18:00 at Listastofan. It will also be available Friday, 2nd of February from 13:00 to 23:00 as part of the Museum Night of the Winter Lights Festival as well as Saturday and Sunday, 3rd and 4th of February from 13:00 to 18:00.