Self Composed for SFMOMA


Adobe was ap­proached by San Francisco Museum of Modern Art to cre­ate an in­stal­la­tion for the re­launch of the mu­seum in 2016. The pho­to­graphic cu­ra­tors wanted an ex­pe­ri­ence that en­cour­aged peo­ple to ap­proach pho­tog­ra­phy thought­fully and cre­atively, want­ing to help peo­ple think crit­i­cally about pho­tog­ra­phy in a world where cam­er­a’s are in every­one’s pock­ets and im­age mak­ing is cheap.

I joined the pro­ject in its early stages, and through a col­lab­o­ra­tive ideation process with the mu­seum we ar­rived at a di­rec­tion in­spired by the form of sun­prints, or cyan­otypes. Through the early we­b­cam pro­to­types we re­fined the ex­pe­ri­ence largely as it was in­stalled, where the user’s por­trait is ob­scured un­til they be­gin to in­ter­act with a glass table in front of them.

As they cast shad­ows on the table, their por­trait is re­vealed in the cast shad­ows in the com­pos­ite, viewed on a screen in front of them in real time, and af­ter a count­down ex­pires is cap­tured. If they like their re­sult, they can print out a re­ceipt with their cre­ation and a link to down­load the full im­age. This in­ter­ac­tion sim­ply can’t de­liver you a photo of your­self un­less you are will­ing to en­gage with it.

I de­signed and wrote the orig­i­nal pro­to­types, first in HTML and JS, later in Open Frameworks and Processing, where we re­fined the idea of the in­ter­ac­tion as well as speced and tested the cam­eras and light­ing arrange­ments for the fi­nal in­stal­la­tion. In later stages of the pro­ject I wrote the Arduino code for the but­ton and the cam­era show con­trol sys­tem, as well as co­or­di­nat­ing de­vel­op­ment of the ap­pli­ca­tion with Adobe’s de­vel­op­ment team and sup­port­ing the con­tent cre­ation for the at­tract video by the other de­sign­ers on the pro­ject. I also was re­spon­si­ble for work­ing with the ven­dor re­spon­si­ble for the fi­nal build of the cab­i­nets, as well as sup­port­ing the tech­ni­cal ven­dor who han­dled in­stal­la­tion and on­go­ing sup­port, in­clud­ing train­ing and be­ing on­site for the in­stal­la­tion.

Adobe has a write up about the pro­ject here and the mu­seum has writ­ten about it here. Self Composed also will be fea­tured in Communication Arts 23rd an­nual for Environmental Interactive.

Images pro­duced by the in­stal­la­tion can be found on Instagram un­der the hash­tag #SelfComposed.