I’m a fine art film photographer and portrait artist seeking financial support in building a mobile photography studio. I envision transforming a short school bus into a working photography studio on wheels. The mobile studio will bear a dream, allowing me to open a business outside the box, one beyond the unrealistic financial constraints of leasing a storefront. I aim to be self-employed, photographing my community through portraiture and by documenting local artists’ work for their own elevation, portfolios, and creative/professional advancement. My long-term goals include working with addicts and those grieving the loss or expectant loss of loved ones through photographic art therapy and portraiture.
The mobile photo studio is my outside-the-box answer to the challenges of opening a business. The idea came while brainstorming how to render my dream of opening a portrait studio without going into debt by renting a storefront.
In 2003, I learned how to operate a professional portrait studio and have been trying to figure out how to do it on my own ever since. For over 15 years, I've been meeting clients at parks or lugging my studio setup into their homes, taking time to set up in their living rooms. I love the idea of a mobile portrait studio where I could still provide convenience to my clients by coming to them, yet be ready to photograph immediately in my own creative space.
I'm raising funds to purchase a school bus and the tools needed to renovate it into my mobile dream studio. I've also budgeted for smaller projects such as hand-painting and stretching my own backdrops as well as building cabinets. My goals after the mobile studio is complete are to build an at-home darkroom and a frame shop. For portraiture, from picture to frame, I intend to have a hand in every service I offer, which are as follows:
- Photographing clients
- Developing the film in my at-home darkroom
- Making contact sheets of the 20 portraits captured
- Guiding clients in their portrait selections
- Guiding clients in their matting/framing selections using on-hand examples
- Printing their portraits in my at-home darkroom
- Custom cutting their matts
- Custom building their frames
- Delivering their artwork
- Collaborating with clients in deciding where the pieces will hang
- Providing the nails and hammer
- Hanging their artwork
I quit my day job as a letter carrier at the U.S. Postal Service to build this dream and become the “picture lady” I should be. How do I plan to pull it off? Well, leaving the mail trade was the first step. I now have a seasonal part-time job as a preschool portrait photographer, which will allow me the time and energy needed to get the bus up and rolling. I’m also a volunteer and TA at Newspace Center for Photography. This grants me regular access to the darkroom facilities to develop and print my own work until my home darkroom is finished.
- Bus acquired/renovated/painted Jan-Mar 2017
- Home darkroom assembled April-June 2017
- Home Custom Frame Shop constructed July 2017
- Bus Renovation
- Eliminate seats
- Strip floor
- Install hardwood flooring
- Paint interior
- Route electrical source to power studio lights, fan, heat
- Build storage compartments to house backdrops, stands and props
- Build shelves for matting/framing corner samples and prints display
- Paint and stretch hand-made canvas backdrops
- Install ceiling backdrop support
- Paint exterior
- Public Surplus Auction (possibly available in OR & WA) $3,500—$5,000
- Used purchase through local dealer $5,000—$12,000
- Tools to dislodge seats (I will check out a bandsaw, jigsaw and miscellaneous tools from the SE Portland Tool Library)
- Floor stripping materials (I will check out miscellaneous tools from the SE Portland Tool Library)
- Materials for removing adhesive, filling holes, filing metal $45
- Floor lining, edge moulding, skirting board, laminated flooring (dependent on length of bus: typically 12ft—40ft) IKEA $400
- DIY painting (tape, plastic, poly drop cloth, Power Painter, paint, reducer mix, bucket, mask) $400
- Professional painting, exterior (dependent on labor costs: if there’s rust or decals to be removed prior to painting) Macco $2,000—$5,000
- Professional painting, interior (dependent on labor costs: if there’s rust or decals to be removed prior to painting) Macco $2,000—$5,000
- (Dependent on engine. After the bus purchase, I’ll work with electrician friends to figure the best option) Electrical Power Inverter $398
- Conduit wiring, 1200 generator $220
- Extension cords $50
- DIY Materials $150 (I will check out miscellaneous tools from the SE Portland Tool Library)
- Goodwill $80
- Paint/build (3) backdrops, blue, burnt umber, grey (canvas, stretcher bars, ceiling hooks, cross bar) $195
- Logo and informational decals for bus from local business, 503 Sign Works $260
- 2 seats reupholstered $100
- Kickstarter reward costs (dependent on how many/level of supporters) $400+
- Kickstarter’s fee and the payment/processing fees will deduct 8%—10% from the successful project’s total award
Additional expenses I’ll procure on my own after bus completion :
- Bus registration/insurance
- New business cards
- Business license/insurance
- Promotional cards
- Promotional flyers distributed in target markets via USPS
- Adobe Lightroom editing software
- Darkroom materials (mostly acquired)
- Frame shop materials (mostly acquired)
Expedition / Achievement
Amid construction, progress will be shared on social media sites, Instagram and Facebook and on my new website: www.april.photography. I’ll connect with local newspapers and advertise Grand Opening cards and distribute flyers in target audience areas. I’ll have portrait displays in Sellwood Medical clinics and reach out to other medical clinics to do the same. The Mobile Photo Studio in itself will be an attractive advertising tool. Demonstrating excellent customer service, I’ll also rely on word-of-mouth and positive reviews to promote business.
All contributors will have their names written on the dashboard in the mobile studio.
For reward examples, please visit my website:
The tumultuous events of 2016 brought to light a previously displaced passion inside me. I took the bull by the horns, quit the U.S. Postal Service and am now dedicating my time building a living that will utilize my developed talents. With such a short time on Earth, what does it all mean if you don’t do what you love?
A moving moment as a photographer: Joy hired me to photograph her newborn twin girls. When Joy and I spoke on the phone, she shared that a few years ago, her baby son, Wesley had passed away shortly after his birth and she wished to include him in his sisters’ newborn photos. She requested to incorporate petals from the Cherry Blossom tree planted in Wesley’s honor, her belly cast from carrying the girls, and Wesley Bear—the stuffed bear made in Wesley’s honor— bearing his birthweight and spiritual remembrance.
After speaking with Joy, I knew this would be an emotional photo shoot. We planned to photograph the newborns with the symbolic petals, mom’s plaster belly cast and Wesley Bear.
Never before had I experienced tears filling my viewfinder while taking pictures. Our session became a gentle, sentimental gathering of beauty and eulogy. Photographing new life among the delicate reminiscence of a relative’s passing, I was once again reminded that life on Earth is indefinite. I’m thrilled to have early on found my tool for documenting what matters most in life: our people.
I prefer to photograph with film. I believe film and other historical art practices have the power to artfully illuminate profound information. I also appreciate digital photography, shoot digitally and don’t heavily rely on Photoshop in portraiture. I believe a portrait should describe an accurate representation of the true self. Modern day culture’s bizarre obsession with personal appearance and unattainable perfection distracts us from finding happiness. I’ll remove a stain from one’s shirt, drool and even a pimple—because those are temporary things that don’t depict character. I love photographing people honestly, just as they are, and that is beautiful enough.
“I was not looking for my dreams to interpret my life, but rather for my life to interpret my dreams.”—Susan Sontag
Thank you for taking the time to read my proposal and for the consideration of your support. Photography, portraiture, is my thing; there’s little else I can imagine myself doing for the rest of my years. This bus has been on my mind since I first imagined it. I’ll be forever grateful for your hand in helping make this dream a reality.
Let’s build it!
Risks and challenges
Possible risks that could lead to delays in production plans: if the bus requires unforeseen repairs after purchase. I hope to find a bus that is fresh off a route so that it's up to safety inspection. I'm in contact with several local dealers that have a wide variety of buses for sale, so I'm not limited in selection. I'll bring a mechanic along to ensure I'm purchasing a vehicle that's ready for the road. We'll check the windows, windshield, mirrors, lights, brakes, joints, carrying bearing, and weather stripping. We'll look at the wiring, engine, check for oil leaks, look out for rust, and ensure the tires aren't split.
I anticipate the electrical aspect will be the most challenging. I've received advice from an electrician and plan to hire help if need be.
If I receive funding over my projected goal, I will use the earnings to finish building the darkroom and frame shop. If I receive an overwhelming amount of support, I'd love to look at installing a solar power system. I'm also interested in potentially using biodiesel to power the bus.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)