Photos flash by to the beat of an ever-changing soundtrack. The visual mix is an energetic group of amateur and pro shots, and it’s a hit with photolovers worldwide.
The latest online photo experience? Nope, the opposite. The photos are wall-sized projections, and the viewers are the hundreds of people who step away from their computers and come together to gorge on lots of photos and some good old-fashioned homemade grub, too. This is the world of Slideluck Potshow (SLPS), where talented amateurs can show their work to a big audience alongside the masters of the photographic universe.
How popular is SLPS? Amid a cool November drizzle last fall, about 800 people trekked to the far west side of Manhattan, casserole dishes in hand, to look at pictures, socialize, and eat each other’s home-cooked meals.
Later, about 200 souls in Santa Fe braved frigid December weather and slippery sidewalks to do the same. There have also been shows from Austin, TX, to Washington, DC, to Rochester, NY, to New Orleans. And overseas, too, in Madrid, Rome, São Paulo—even in Nairobi, Kenya, last January.
This spring saw SLPS events in Boulder, CO, and Los Angeles. On May 15, it was scheduled for Brooklyn’s DUMBO neighborhood as part of the 2010 New York Photo Festival. (For a list of upcoming shows, see the sidebar on this page.)
Indeed, in the decade since photographer Casey Kelbaugh, now 36, threw his first slideshow/ potluck dinner in his Seattle backyard, the phenomenon has grown to encompass more than 100 events in 45 cities worldwide, with as many as 1,200 people attending the biggest show (at New York’s Sandbox Studio in 2007—where another 300 were turned away at the door).
Operating as a nonprofit organization (technically a sponsored project of a national arts service organization called Fractured Atlas), Slideluck Potshow, with Kelbaugh at the helm and fewer than 10 volunteer staffers, is “devoted to building and strengthening community around food and art,” according to its website, www.slideluckpotshow.com.
Most of all, its shows are a hot ticket. In November, some 750 New Yorkers lined up, velvet-rope style, to pay the $10 admission and walk up to a fourth-floor loft. Admittance was sporadically cut off to ease overcrowding, but the joint was still packed. The line for the potluck food snaked through host Aperture Foundation’s big space, moving glacially.
Lively interactions thrived in a shadowy side room where people posed provocatively for a cajoling photographer in the “Irving Penn Photo Booth.” The high-energy sessions proceeded all evening, thanks to sponsors such as Bron Imaging and Scheimpflug Digital. Squeals of delight, and of punctured dignity, greeted the b&w inkjet photo cards—400 in all.
In the main room, the best seats had been staked out early. Jammed in cheek-by-jowl under the glowing screen, the audience balanced stacked paper plates of food while staying raptly focused on the big photo projections.
Sighs, catcalls, applause and cheers erupted for the slide shows (actually, digital projections, most about 3 minutes long and all set to music), with titles like “Safe/Sexy” and “Fast Food.” These unspooled for more than an hour. The pro work came from Chuck Close, Vincent Laforet, David Maisel, and other major photographers.
Serious shooters, but fun is a big part of the buzz. The first event’s title was, instructively, Party with Art, back in 2000. And in the bigger cities worldwide SLPS is a high-energy hipster party, but also part en masse portfolio review and old-fashioned potluck dinner.
It’s not just for fun, however. SLPS is “a nontraditional way to share work—outside of the gallery and print media realms—with an international audience,” explains Kelbaugh, now a pro photographer based in New York. “That’s something new.”