Thursday, March 21, 2013

Lamphouse Photo Co. Update ~or~ You're Gonna Do WHAT With That Trailer?!

Hey party people! Hope your St. Patty's was patty-licious or whatever it's supposed to be.
Conan made Irish soda bread and we splurged on the fancy butter. Par-tay. I know.
Anywhoodle, chicken noodles!
Since I said upon our return to the blog that I was going to talk a little about our new business venture, Lamphouse Photo Co., I thought I should probably, eventually actually talk about it and show you guys some pictures and explain what we're going to do and how we came up with the crazy idea to put a photobooth inside of a vintage travel trailer.
Here goes nothin'!
Well, as I mentioned in the last post, we were having some serious trouble figuring out the exterior lights. I am now happy to report that just moments after I hit "Publish" the problem was resolved and now we have beautiful little amber and red lights all over!
Just for fun, I snapped some pics as the sun was setting the other day...
The Grand Wagoneer looks pretty spiffy in front of the trailer. I think they're going to make a great team.
I mean, the trailer hasn't even been painted yet and they still look pretty cute together!

Cutest. brake lights. ever.
Okay! You get it, you get it! The lights work and it's awesome. Moving on then...

What are we planning to do with the travel trailer and what have we done so far?
The plan for the trailer is to convert it into a mobile photo studio and darkroom. Sort of like a photobooth except that instead of little moving parts inside, it has little moving people.
Cool? Cool.
So, the first step was finding a trailer that would fit both of those things along with room to move around in it. We looked at several on Craigslist and ended up settling on our cute little vintage Conestoga Travel Trailer that's about 16 feet long by 7 feet wide.
Next, after taking a bunch of pictures and giggling a lot about how cute it was we started the very fun process of gutting it.
That meant saying goodbye to this lovely piece of equipment...
As well as the bed that was underneath it.
The other end had a little table and kitchenette

Which we removed very carefully (so, if anybody has need for a tiny stove or table, we can totes hook you up!)
One of the neatest things? There was a little gas powered light next to the door. Kept that, too of course!
Once the whole thing was pretty much totally empty, it was time to start replacing all of that rotten wood and fixing the leaks that caused it..

With the help of the 'rents we slowly replaced all of the rotten wood (ceiling braces, wall supports, giant chunks of the floor, etc.)
Once the wood was replaced, it was time to start wiring the exterior lights
It was a pretty frustrating couple of days. All new wiring inside, everything looks good, hook it up to the Jeep and...nothing.
Our next door neighbor was even standing in his backyard giving us suggestions! We all stared at it and and wrinkled our brows and then finally, after Conan suggested that maybe the skin of the trailer wasn't grounded, my mom ran a new ground wire from the frame to the skin and success! Lights!
She said she "could have just cried right there" when they finally came on.
Wiring is incredibly frustrating when it doesn't work and incredibly thrilling when it does.
This applies to house wiring, too!
Speaking of house wiring, our next step is to begin wiring the darkroom which will be contained in the back of the trailer where that bed used to be...
That little cubby where the shower and fridge once were is now gone and a wall will be built, just past the wheel wells to divide the studio end of the travel trailer from the darkroom end.
If you're wondering what kind of pictures we'll be taking, I'll hand it over to Conan to describe the whole process to you
*hands the computer to Conan*

Way back in September Katherine and I took the wiener dog on a walk, as we do, and after much talking and discussion of various ideas pertaining to food-truckery, we decided that it simply wasn't for us. But we still wanted to create a small business, and Katherine naturally pointed out that we needed to do something that was actually a part of our lives, and I said, "Like what, home improvement?" After the rolling of eyes, she said that it needed to be something "magical".
I mentioned that watching traditional photographic prints develop in the darkroom always seemed pretty magical to me, and that led me to recall something I had seen several years ago about Afghan box cameras. After a quick google search on the ole intertubes, I found this video that gives a pretty good explanation:


We both loved the idea of creating portraits rather quickly right on the street but agreed that we wanted to do something on a little larger scale. If I remember correctly, I think Katherine said, "If only we could be inside the box." The answer was to turn the box camera into a mobile photobooth with two seperate areas. One for taking pictures and one for developing them.
But how do you take and develop individual pictures quickly and easily? Just like the box camera, you use a paper negative process.
I dusted off my Graflex large format camera, which had previously been serving time as a bookend:
grabbed some negative holders and we started experimenting with the process, taking pictures of family, friends and ourselves and developing them in a makeshift darkroom in the basement.
So let me break it down for ya'.
Instead of using film, which is too expensive and takes too long to develop, we use a piece of 4x5 inch photopaper as the negative.
We develop that, stick it on top of an unexposed piece of paper, expose it to light, and develop that to get a positive image.
Simple, right?
Here are some of our first attempts:
Katherine's parents
My brother, Jared (the piano player)
After we had the process figured out and knew that we could re-create it, photobooth style, inside the vintage camper, we moved the process inside and started figuring out our lighting setup.
We tried a single giant soft box with Katherine in our living room
Our friend Nick brought over his multiple lighting setup to try some other things.
Until we finally decided to start with two beauty dishes and one background light. 
After our lights arrived, I cleaned out a space in the attic and mapped out the entire trailer using painter's tape on the floor.
I put all of the equipment in and we started experimenting using the lights in the space that we would actually have in the trailer for our mobile photobooth.
Our friend Alex took this picture of our setup in the attic.
You can see the tape on the floor in the left hand corner.
 Katherine and her mom also built a very tiny, temporary darkroom in one corner of the attic so we could better simulate the amount of time it would take to make a print (rather than taking one and running down the basement to develop it).  
**BTW: This entire process, start-to-finish takes about ten minutes**
We've been taking pictures of friends and perfecting the process ever since while we work on re-building the inside of the trailer.
Here's a look at some of those:
Alex and Shorty
Super cool couple, Jan and Stephan!
Miranda and Alex's friend Jena was nice enough to come over and let us take a picture or two.
And Miranda!
(Fun fact, Miranda did everyone's hair at our wedding and she is one of the few people who have seen the house go from zero to sixty over these four years).
The plan is to be up and running (or rolling) for our very first event at the end of June.
And now that you're all caught up on the dirty deets of Lamphouse Photo Co., we can start showing you the process of putting a studio and darkroom inside of a vintage travel trailer as we work on it!
Yay! Travel trailers! Jeeps! Pictures! 
We really are suuuuper excited to share this process with you guys and gals and we appreciate all of your well wishes and support! 
If you want to follow our adventures on the daily you can check out the tweeter or the instagram for Lamphouse!
Phew! That was a long one but thanks for reading!


  1. So how do you plan to get people into your trailer? I mean where will you be doing this at? Love your creativity!

    1. Thanks! Well, we're going to be debuting the little trailer at something called Final Friday (it's a monthly art crawl here in Wichita). Hopefully, we'll do a lot of those in the future. As for other places? We've been approached about everything from birthday parties to mommy-and-me play groups and we're down to try anything (weddings, community events, store openings, carnivals, girl scout meetings, film festivals, aunt Edna's birthday, whatever!).

  2. This is going to be so cool. Can't wait to see how it all comes together.

  3. This is all very exciting! I am looking forward to more posts about this as you get going. It's really cool seeing the different uses these old travel trailers can be put to.

    1. Thanks! And yeah, as we were getting ready to do this and looking around the interwebs at stuff we've seen them used as vintage clothing stores and all kinds of neat stuff! I've joked that I would buy every one I saw so I could do something different with/decorate each one!

  4. Magical! Seriously this is just fantastic! I would die to have a portrait like this. Also love that you have the Avedon Kennedy portrait in your living room. It is one of my favorites ever!

    1. Thank you so much!! It means a lot that somebody gets the same feeling we were trying to capture with this - Magic! Maybe someday we'll find ourselves in your neck of the wood and you can get a picture from us! And yes, (good eye!) that Avedon portrait is amazing! That's actually the first book we ever bought together - it was on the clearance rack at Barnes and Noble and we knew it belonged on these shelves : )

  5. I'm jealous this exists in Wichita and not Lawrence.

    1. Hey, it's mobile for a reason : ) Hopefully we'll have lots of reasons to bring it up there and take some pictures!

  6. These photos are seriously amazing! Let me know when you pull into Seattle, and I'll be first in line!!! I love it!

    1. Thank you so much! I really, really hope we get to visit that neck of the woods someday and I'll expect to see you there, first in line : D


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