AUBURN | Visitors to the Schweinfurth Memorial Art Center Friday had the chance to be immortalized in a unique piece of art they were able to take home with them.
As part of the center' First Friday celebration, photographer Joe Librandi-Cowan set up a makeshift studio in the Schweinfurth and assisted people in telling their stories with his Polaroid photographs.
There was a twist, though. The photographer made the image, but the portrait subjects had to sit and write their personal stories, or any thoughts they wanted to write, on a small piece of paper that was placed next to the finished Polaroid portrait and scanned into a digital image.
Participants took home a print of their portraits and stories and also could take home the original Polaroid. The images from First Friday were also posted on the Schweinfurth's Facebook page.
Librandi-Cowan has an exhibit in the Schweinfurth currently that will be up for a few more weeks. As some people meandered through the exhibit, hesitant to be photographed, others made a bee line for the tiny, temporary studio.
"It's very popular, actually," said Allison Mitura, program director. "It's like your own personal photo shoot."
Librandi-Cowan was shooting with a large-format camera, his preference with his work, he said. For a few seconds each session, the 21-year-old photographer would disappear under a black curtain.
"I talk about the space that we share," he said. "That's what I'm photographing."
Librandi-Cowan is accustomed to shooting portraits of people in their natural environment, so shooting in a stuffy room in an art gallery was a bit challenging. He said he relied on the subjects' statement/stories instead of having their homes or workplaces as context.
"I'm sort of making their statement be their environment," he said. "I want people to leave wondering about the people next to them... their story."
Rachael Gallup, of Camillus, attended college with Librandi-Cowan at Onondaga Community College and came to First Friday at the Schweinfurth to support him.
"Once you get to know Joe, he's very hands-on, detail-oriented and practical," she said. "He likes to get to know his subjects. He likes things very natural, in their environment."
Chris Baker, a local artist, also got his portrait done. He said he wasn't quite ready when the shutter clicked, but said the photo came out alright.
"I was the first one," he said. "I thought it was experimental, to see how the lights work. ... I thought he was just warming up his camera."
Librandi-Cowan's next project could have very local vibes, he said. As an Auburnian, he is interested in his community and the stories that are here, and a project that pairs local people's portraits with their stories is an idea Librandi-Cowan's been toying with.
"There's a lot going on here," he said. "Everyone has a story."