The Instagram generation has shed a whole new light on selfies, and nothing screams the ultimate selfie like a poster-sized portrait of yourself plastered in the middle of Times Square, New York. As part of the Inside Out Project, a photo booth truck has been planted in the heart of the city to offer pedestrians the chance to express themselves in a simple but larger than life black and white picture.
Dubbed “The People’s Art Project,” Inside Out is a production of a French artist who goes by the initials JR. The project has traveled across the globe to find participants willing to share a part of themselves with the world. Since its pit stop in Times Square on April 22, the photo booth averages about 250 portraits a day during its eight-hour shift. Participants have ranged from school kids spending the afternoon in the city to a sports fanatic showing his team’s jersey to photographers hiding behind their own cameras… even musicians like N.E.R.D.’s Pharrell Williams has stopped by.
“It’s called the Inside Out Project because it gives people the opportunity to expose their inside out to the world,” project producer Marc Azoulay tells me. “It lets you show what you want to tell to the world with just your face on a gigantic photo in the middle of the city.” The project chose to locate in Times Square because it was the site of the world’s first traditional photo booth nearly 100 years ago.
Unlike those old machines, Inside Out Project’s digital booth is outfitted in the back of a full-sized truck. A large-format printer is also hidden within, and prints the snapped portrait in less than a minute. Afterward, participants can choose to take home the giant print or let project volunteers paste the poster onto the grounds of Duffy Square for the world to see, step on, admire, or take photos of. The photos are then replaced on a daily basis as more portraits are taken. If you’ve never felt stepped over by New Yorkers before, well, now’s your chance.
A quick inspection of each image is strangely revealing. One man came with a photo of someone and declared his romantic interest in her for all to see. Others showed off their goofy sides with funny faces; many people simply smiled, and some looked straight into the camera like they’re having a passport photo taken. Seeing how each individual chooses to portray him or herself gives the project a layer of artistic substance that’s captivating.
The Inside Out Project also premiered its documentary special last weekend at the Tribeca Film Festival, with an HBO special debuting in May. The movie showcases an odd take on reinventing the selfie as a piece of individually curated “artwork.”
The Inside Out Project photo booth will be at Duffy Square in Times Square until May 10 between noon to 8 p.m. If you wish to participate, remember that you will be asked to sign a release to let the artist use your image.