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Words from a hopeful Brighton Digital Festival applicant

Why I gave up my design career - The history - by Adam Kemeny, Photobot.Co

I stumbled upon an unusual opportunity after making a simple photo booth for a friend’s birthday in Easter last year. The guests loved it and after posting the resulting photostrips on Facebook I started to get enquiries about hiring the booth which was something of a surprise to me as I'd had no plans to make any money out of it. After the first hire went really well I realised that I'd accidentally started a new business!

I decided to create a second, more sophisticated booth that I operated from within. By building in a sound system and using audio software to synthesise my voice this photo booth became Photobot and I began taking it to events and parties around the country. Last autumn I made an even more robust and finessed Photobot and so far it has featured at events for Vice Magazine, Alfred Dunhill, Diesel and Virgin Media, to name a few. All this because of a fun thing I made for a party last year.

I managed to find a technical partner to work on a number of ideas and to help launch booths that could be safely, and freely, interacted with 24 hours a day, running automatically.  This led me to the idea of creating what I’m currently calling WindowBots, for want of a better name, that would be mounted behind glass in the windows of commercial premises. They would face into the street and allow anyone passing to have their photo taken whenever they wanted, night or day.

Being mounted behind glass would mean that physical interaction to trigger the booths would be tricky but not impossible if I chose to use capacitive sensors, for example. A better idea, given the interactive nature of Photobot, seemed to be to encourage a conversation between the WindowBots and the subject wanting their pictures taken. The subject should ask for a photo, the booth should respond by suggesting a pose, then take the photo and give the subject the resulting picture.

I decided that Twitter was the best way to do this. The subject would send a tweet to the booth which would initiate the photo sequence. The booth would then display a suggested pose for the subject to respond to, then take the photo which it would immediately tweet back to the subject. The tweet would also include a link to an online gallery with all of the photos the WindowBots had taken. Each pose would be a hashtag allowing easy browsing of similar responses to the booth’s suggestions.

At this point I felt I had a particularly strong idea but was without the financial means to realise it so parked it and continued work on Photobot.Co

photo by Emma Jeffery

My hope for Brighton Digital Festival

In the last few weeks I started to consider contacting various events within Brighton Digital Festival with the hope of taking Photobot along to them but before I had a chance to make any calls I started to hear about the possible availability of Arts Council funding via friends and Wired Sussex. Having never previously made any kind of funding application it took some gentle shoving from friends to get me to contact Jon Pratty, the Arts Council’s Relationship Manager for Digital and Creative Economies who agreed to meet me a day or so later. Jon’s a lovely chap who listened with interest to my idea, made some encouraging noises and various really helpful suggestions which gave me plenty to take away.

One of the main shortcomings I felt I had was an ability to clearly answer the key question that Jon said was always asked when they considered applications, “Where’s the art in this?”. He directed me to contact Jamie Wyld at Lighthouse who has been totally invaluable in helping me express my idea and has been very helpful in pointing me in the right direction to get what was initially an intimidating application form complete.

The response to this simple idea has been overwhelmingly positive so far. I just need to get the various details ironed out, the application sent off and a positive result from the nail-­biting six week review period and you could be posing for a WindowBot in a busy Brighton street soon. Wish me luck!

Contact Adam for more information about Photobot.Co and his ventures..

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