Vince Donovan is a San Francisco-based photographer, writer, and the co-founder of Photobooth, a portrait studio, camera shop and gallery dedicated to wet-plate, Polaroid, and other hand crafted, one-of-a-kind photographic processes.
Vince built his first darkroom when he was eight years old and since then has worked continuously in film and alternative photography, specializing in portraiture. In 2009, he completed “Little Cities”, a series of thirty-foot photographic murals, each composed of hundreds of individual portraits. Inspired by the work of August Sander, Vince spent two years making a complete series of portraits of members of several non-profit communities, including Old First Presbyterian Church, Creativity Explored, and the San Francisco Welcome Center. The portraits were printed in a darkroom on thirty-foot rolls of photographic paper, using a two dimensional sliding easel Vince designed and built specifically for this project. Each mural required over 8 hours of darkroom time to complete. The eight murals making up “Little Cities” were exhibited at the Rayko Center for Photography. Individual murals can now be seen at Old First Presbyterian church and other locations in San Francisco.
Vince has also experimented extensively with the various forms of Polaroid and other instant photography. For several years he was a common sight in San Francisco’s Mission District taking portraits with a Polaroid Land camera or an Andy-Warhol-style Polaroid Big Shot. He also travelled by bicycle through southern Spain and the north island of New Zealand with a Polaroid Land camera he modified specifically for portraiture. This series is currently on display at the Photobooth Gallery.
In 2011, Vince, together with Michael Shindler, started Photobooth, which has become a center of inspiration for the community of hand-crafted photographers in San Francisco and beyond. Photobooth is both a photography business and an ongoing experiment in portraiture. Over 4000 wet-plate and Polaroid portraits have been taken in the studio since it opened in 2011. Each is a unique hand-crafted object, remarkable in an age when photographic images are assumed to be ubiquitous and infinitely reproducible. Most importantly, each Photobooth portrait creates a unique experience for photographer and subject, a momentary exploration of timelessness and identity.
Through Photobooth, Vince continues to experiment with portrait media and styles, and now conducts workshops exploring the experience of hand-crafted photography. He has also begun a new portrait series involving San Francisco’s communities of faith.
*** You can find Vince on Facebook or talking alternative photography at Photobooth SF.