Thursday, August 29, 2013

Oh, Snap! Take a Pic-Cha at NYPL

One weekend, I went to see a friend's band perform at a local venue. Not far from where I stood was a photo booth. During the show, a giggly couple stumbled into the booth, the bright flash of its camera intermittently illuminating the darkness. 

At that moment, it occurred to me that I've never actually had my photo taken in a photo booth. A visit to the New York Public Library would remedy that.

Earlier this month, two branches of the New York Public Library installed photo booths on the premises. Visitors to the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building (the famous branch with the two stone lions at the entrance) and the Mid-Manhattan Library (just across the street, at 455 Fifth Avenue) can take their photos at these booths. The booths are proving to be quite popular!

Since their installation, these photo booths have produced approximately 2,000 photographs of people who have visited these library branches, according to Denise Canniff, who is director of engagement at the New York Public Library.

Stepping inside the booths, patrons can choose from eight preselected options that explain what brought them to the New York Public Library: Borrowing, Exploring, Learning, Reading, Researching, Studying, Visiting, or Writing. They then have the option of stating where they are from - for instance, any of the five boroughs of New York City or from outside the New York region.

The New York Public Library gets data revealing who patronizes the library. Patrons get a funny keepsake of their trip to one of the city's esteemed institutions. All of the photographs are sent to the patrons' email address, and they can be shared via Instagram by using the #NYPL and #NYPLPhotobooth hashtags. The New York Public Library also highlights submitted photo booth photos on its Inside NYPL blog channel and on Facebook and Twitter.

I began browsing these photos on the NYPL Photo Booth on Flickr, with the intent of only looking at a few. But I quickly became captivated by the breadth of humanity that passed through the library and by the silly faces that were made, the obvious comradeship between those who took group photos, and the facial expressions (or lack of expression) of those who took photos alone. It's actually a fascinating look at human nature! To take a look for yourself, go to THIS LINK. And if you're ever in New York, stop by one of these two branches of the New York Public Library and take a picture why don't you - it'll last longer.

All photos from

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