Small Pictures of Pretty, Odd People

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Get Whitney! (Photo: Patrick McMullan.)

The other night at the Whitney Museum, they were doing it in pairs, threesomes, and, with some difficulty, all alone.

A couple of new-fangled photo booths, updates on the ones of old, had invitees at the museum’s fall benefit snapping away. Especially since right after they’d posed for their close-ups, the images flashed up on giant floor-to-ceiling screens for all to see.

“It’s total fodder for narcissism, you know,” said Ivanka Trump. She’d hammed it up for the camera with her friend, Devon. They roared and pointed to their shots on the screen.

“It’s an opportunity to become a pure exhibitionist at that given moment,” said Paul Saphire, a young doctor.

“Exactly,” said his date, Shirelle Segal. “He even kissed me.”

The artist Chuck Close maneuvered himself in his wheelchair in between the shutter and the back wall of the machine. It was a tight squeeze, but Mr. Close got his picture taken. “I was about to break the thing,” he said with a laugh.

“It was a great party starter, for sure,” said Paul Hasty, an architect-in-training. “It’s fun to see everybody kinda loosening up a little bit for the pictures.”

Not Moby. “No, I didn’t do that,” he said. “There was a long line for it. And I used to go to the photo booth machine…there’s an arcade on Mott Street, way down in Chinatown, that has this great photo booth machine and, it seems, this is nice but sort of a pale imitation to the real thing. I’m sort of a purist, I think.”

Rolling Stone contributing editor Toure: “Let me tell ya, the beautiful thing that made this different than your average photo booth: When you do the photo booth, the first picture is always fucked up ’cause you’re not ready for the flash. In the second one, you’re like, ‘Ok, now we got it!” and in the third one, you look really good! But this one – they gave you control over the shutter, so everybody looks good because they’re prepared…nobody can say they were surprised because they were holding the shutter.”

“I actually didn’t press the button, my DJ partner did,” said Leigh Lezark of the MisShapes. “It was the three of us and Emmy Rossum, of ‘Phantom of the Opera.’”

Nicolas Henderson and Kimball Hastings looked serious in their photo. “Seems like parties I go to – I’ve always complained about how they have no kind of decor,” Mr. Henderson said. “You know, there are parties where they have so much money in the budget to really put on something that people are going to remember and will bring them back for the cause–I just loved this.”

D. B. Kim, an interior designer, was pictured receiving a friendly lick on the cheek from his friend/date, restauranteur Matt Baumgartner. “It was, like, very heavenly,” Mr. Kim said.

“Oh, wholeheartedly,” said Mr. Baumgartner. They didn’t appear to be talking about the photo experience.

“The idea was to bring people who are here into the event,” said Whitney director Adam Weinberg. “So, the point is: you are the event. That’s it in a nutshell.”

Mr. Weinberg’s photo flashed up on the screen. He was cheek to cheek with the artist Lorna Simpson. “The prettiest lady around,” he said. “The smartest, too.”

– Nicholas Boston