Less than 20 minutes after last April's CicLAvia finished, someone was already asking for the Facebook photos.
"Thanks for the snaps!" a woman wrote on the page of Snap Yourself! at 3:18 p.m. Then came the request: "When will today's ride photos be posted?"
A traveling photo booth for the Internet age, Snap Yourself! is the brainchild of two 26-year-olds: Adam Kleifield, a Los Angeles native who works as a photographer's assistant, and Jeremie Frémaux, a mohawked, French-born photographer. The two wanted to bring their invention to the second CicLAvia last spring, but they weren't invited. Also, immobile objects aren't allowed on the CicLAvia route, period.
Kleifield and Frémaux overcame those obstacles by putting their photography gear on wheels and rolling it down to the Fourth Street Bridge. "We kind of just snuck in that way," Frémaux says. Before the sun had set, Snap Yourself! had uploaded 452 professionally lit photos of people on bikes.
The pair, graduates of photography school, first cobbled together a booth — more like an amalgamation of various gear — two years ago.
"It started off kind of Frankenstein-y," Kleifield says. "We used to just set the TV on a chair."
They've since become more serious about their business. Frémaux and Kleifield estimate they get about three bookings a week, with party hosts paying $750 for the privilege. "None of us have ever run a business that's gotten to this size before," Kleifield says.
The booth's popularity comes from its use of social media and technology, as well as old-fashioned artistic snobbery. Snap Yourself!'s owners don't care for actual photo booths — those boxes that print out strips with the press of a button. "As a photographer, you don't even count it as photography," Frémaux says. "It's just like a party gimmick."
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Instead, Snap Yourself! shoots pictures with a remote, previews them for subjects on a flat-screen panel and uploads everything to Facebook less than 24 hours later. Thanks to a ring light, most people look pretty good. "People who use the booth never see themselves lit nicely, and it makes all the difference," Kleifield says.
They also make use of props — including wigs and Viking helmets — which make for interesting compositions, as well as, apparently, theft. (Kleifield and Frémaux note that more than a few have mysteriously disappeared.)
For the third CicLAvia, Snap Yourself! was back on the route, this time as invited guests. After an organizer happened to pose in the Snap Yourself! booth last April, the duo was awarded a minigrant to bring its services in October. For this month's event, the booth will be located on Spring Street, between Seventh and Ninth.
"I think we're in the right town for this sort of thing," Kleifield says. —Amy Silverstein