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Katie O'Beirne is an artist in NYC who recently launched the New York Shots project, which placed disposable cameras all over NYC and different places in the world, asking people to take photos with them. In the end, we get a crowdsourced documentary project combined with portraiture with interesting results. We talked to Katie recently about the project, and here's what she had to say.
BHInsights: Where did you get the idea to leave a disposable camera around for people to take photos?
Katie: I thought it'd be hilarious to see what the hell would wind up on a roll of film left in a public park in New York City! I mean, you just never know! I also see a great deal of kindness in strangers in New York, but I'm never able to "capture" it. I thought this would be a way to see how strangers took a second of their time to contribute to a project.
I do know that there was a catalyst involved for putting the idea in motion. I mentioned my idea to my friend Royd, who happened to be driving through rural Florida on his way to New York. A few hours after I initially spoke to him, he said that he was in a Big Lots, and there were two disposable cameras in the store at only a few bucks a piece. I said, "Get 'em! Why not?!" When he arrived in New York with the cameras, the first one was launched a few days later in Prospect Park. The rest is history!
BHInsights: Did you go into the project expecting to have any specific results? For example, did you expect the "Bearded fellow with the Converses" to be one of the people photographed?
Katie: I had no clue I'd capture him on film. And the same feeling is true for every launch, especially international launches. You know, I'm sending these cameras off to Tokyo, to Switzerland, to Berlin, to these cities that I've never been to, and only have familiarity with through the internet and other media sources. Where they choose to place the camera is up to THEM! I have no clue in what type of environment they've chosen to set up their camera, I have no idea if they stayed in a metropolitan city or brought the camera to a smaller town, etc.
BHInsights: We saw that you went international with the project, with cameras in London, Tokyo and Stockholm. What made you choose those cities?
Katie: It was an open call, anyone who wanted to participate (given they'd be able to send the camera back by mid to late December) was sent a project packet. I'm happy to see such a quirky mix of cities on my list—Geneva, Sydney, Denton (TX), Asheville, Slagelse, The Hague, to give you a few examples.
BHInsights: What made you choose the specific locations in NYC?
Katie: This is a good question—it depends on several factors. How populated the park/area is during the day (around 1-4pm), the safety of the camera if left in the park for a few hours, how "willing" people in a particular neighborhood would be (to snap a shot), what "types" of people would most likely be on film (artists, bohemians, musicians, suited types), and how often the Parks Department is around on a weekend (between the hours of 1-4pm).
BHInsights: Do you have any other projects in the works?
Katie: I'm honing in on the specifics of the Art Show for 'new york shots,' and I have a few ideas up my sleeve for new projects. Can't quite give anything away, though. :)
You can follow the project here.