This is AI generated summarization, which may have errors. For context, always refer to the full article.
From the classic booths found in arcades to the new breed of self-shoot studios, photo booths have been a staple for Filipinos who love cute memorabilia.
But if you’re an active TikTok user, you might have come across this fun and quirky booth that treats its customers to a more unique experience.
In Portraits! by Loren, Filipina artist Loren Mendoza elevates the photo booth experience by mixing it with live art. Instead of the usual photo strips where customers get their pictures taken, patrons will get a sketch version of themselves after exiting the booth.
Meet Loren, the artist behind the booth
Loren is no stranger to making art. She previously worked as an art director at an ad agency before finding success in freelancing.
As a freelance graphic artist, she handles her own clients as an art director, makes social media advertisements and marketing newsletters, and creates illustrations and short animations projects. She also has published two children’s books.
In an interview with Rappler, Loren shared that she is loose when it comes to defining her art style. “In my mind, I just draw what I want to draw. I just make sure that I enjoy the art I make. I think they’re funny and ugly at the same time,” she said.
“The uglier they look, the more it satisfies me. And all I really want to impress is myself,” she said, adding that she often draws inspiration from her favorite cartoon series Regular Show, Adventure Time, and Gravity Falls.
Making short animations and illustrations was a huge help in jumpstarting her stint creating three-minute portraits. She said that the portraits her patrons get in Portraits! by Loren are much like her usual “sketches.” Most of her artworks, which were made without time constraints, can be found in her Behance portfolio.
Making Portraits! by Loren
In 2017, Loren came across a couple of artists on social media who did five-minute portraits. Since then, she knew that she also wanted to do the same.
When she was in Hong Kong for a voluntary church service from 2018 and 2019, Loren started doing live portraits of the people she talked to at parks for free.
Loren moved back to the Philippines after the end of her church service. And like most of us who shifted online during the height of the pandemic, Loren also started her virtual project “Portraits! Portraits! Portraits!,” wherein she did sketches of friends and strangers who saw her posts. However, the online project only lasted for several months.
Loren eventually came up with the idea of mixing photo booths with live art. She said that she was inspired after coming across mug-o-mat, a group of artists in the United Kingdom, who had their own portrait booth.
“I reached out to them, and told them my plans of doing live portraits at weddings and events. It would be a cool touch to use a portrait booth as a medium because no one has done it in the Philippines yet,” she said.
“I think there are multiple artists out there all over the world that have used the portrait booth concept as well,” Loren added. “But the thing about the portrait booth is, each artist has their own way of doing the portrait, so [patrons] just have to find their favorite artist’s booth to have theirs done.”
But the project didn’t happen overnight. It took Loren a vacation trip to South Korea in January 2023, and getting a portrait done from Acorn Caricature pop-up, for her to be fully resolved in fulfilling her dream project.
“I was so happy and inspired with how they’re operating and I knew I needed to stop sleeping on my pending booth project and really put in my saved up money and start working on it,” she said. “I would tell myself: ‘This is your birthday gift. You know you wanna do this.’”
She initially didn’t know where she wanted to do her project. When she had started committing to her booth project, Loren was actually close to completing her visa application process for the United States. She’s planning to relocate to the US with her fiancé later this year.
“I was planning to just do the booth in the US when I move there. But then I realized, I want to have a little farewell to my home country,” she told Rappler. “So my fellow Filipinos will know about me and my art. And that there was a Loren who had this much love and passion for art, that she did this.”
This realization pushed her to blindly book a slot at the BGC Art Mart on February 17 to 18. When she was confirmed to be one of the event’s final lineup of artists, Loren had less than 10 days to make the portrait booth happen.
When she started conceptualizing the design of her booth, Loren was adamant that it should be collapsible and easy to assemble. “I wanted it to scream ‘Loren,’ I want the booth to look more like a vintage fotoautomat, I want it to be orange,” she said. “It was a mix of all my favorite touches from different inspirations and my personal preferences.”
Initially, Loren was going for the five-minute portrait idea, but after several practices, she realized that she could do the portraits in three minutes.
“The hardest part about the booth was making it,” she said. Loren shared that despite going for the cheapest option, her total expenses for the booth still reached P30,000.
Loren recalled that a good friend gave her plywood scraps for free. And together with a carpenter she hired, they both worked together in creating the booth just like how she imagined it to be. “I painted the booth by myself. At that point, I was literally doing carpentry work, painting, then doing freelance work at night,” she said.
“Come Art Mart Day, I couldn’t believe I actually finished the booth and [could] do what I’ve always wanted.”
Art Mart Day in BGC was supposed to be the first and last event of Portraits! by Loren. “I wasn’t planning on making this a regular thing,” she said. “But there was a big demand from people.”
A TikTok video of her set-up already has more than 800,000 views and 150,000 likes, as of writing. “I knew people would love the idea, but I didn’t expect it to blow up as much,” she said.
“Come the next pop-up day, there was a long line of people saying they saw the video on TikTok and came all the way from far places just to experience the portrait booth.”
Loren said that there were even comments asking her to fly to their hometown, like Cebu and Bacolod, to do the pop-up. Since then, she has been asked by couples and brands to set up her booth in their wedding and events.
How Portraits! by Loren works
“My portrait booth has some unique features including fun and interactive instructions while waiting for the portraits,” Loren said. “It’s not just the portrait that people liked about my booth, but also the whole experience.”
Portraits! by Loren offers two services: the single portrait for P300 and the three-pose portrait for P400. There would be an additional charge for every additional person.
Meanwhile, Loren has a P5,000 per hour rate for private events, with a minimum of three hours per booking.
Loren shared that the single portrait is perfect for couple and group pictures because it has more details and is the quickest option; meanwhile the three-pose portrait has more fun poses and looks just like the classic fotoautomat strip.
Those who’d like to avail of the services should get the orange token for the single portrait, and the yellow token for the three-pose portrait.
Once inside the booth, patrons should wait for Loren’s instruction to appear on the mirror. Loren would then cue the customers on when to pose and how long they should hold still.
Behind the mirror, Loren has all of her 10+ pens and markers set up. “I try to draw them as accurately to their distinctive features but still, in the way I am used to doodling,” she said.
After Loren has given the cue that customers can stop posing, they must exit the portrait booth and wait for their sketches to come out.
It might come across as quick and easy for some, but it’s only because of Loren’s experience and expertise. “I think the thing that some people don’t realize is that it takes years to master drawing straight from pen and marker without erasures and be able to finish it in just three to five minutes,” she said.
Though most of her interactions with patrons were short, Loren said that doing Portraits! by Loren has birthed so many memorable moments. “[I’ve witnessed] inside jokes between friends and sweet moments of couples,” she said. “I also get to witness little kids getting giddy with their portraits. It’s like, this is something they look back to as a core memory of some sort.”
Loren also recalled that she once drew a guy whom she suspected was drunk. “According to him, he just got out of a toxic relationship,” she said. “While I was drawing him, he suggested that he should pour his heart out about his recent breakup.”
She said that she even played some background music for him while inside the booth. “He was opening up to me as if I [were] a priest in a confessional, or like I’m his very own therapist. He’s cool though, but I just didn’t expect that as I was just there to draw for fun. When three minutes was over and he got his drawing, he said it was cool that he got to get some stuff off his chest.”
Another memorable moment was when she helped her sister’s boyfriend in proposing. “We did a special four-pose portrait. In the first and second pose, they were making funny faces. On the third pose, I flashed on the screen: ‘Mahal, will you marry me?” And my sister’s boyfriend brought the ring out. My sister loved it a lot. The fourth pose was my sister showing off the ring after saying yes.”
“It was simple, sweet, and unique. And it was very private. It all happened inside the booth. Just the two of them, and me!”
Since February, Portraits! by Loren has not only given its patrons cute keepsakes to cherish, but the whole experience has become something Loren would remember by.
“The booth is coming to a close, at least, in the Philippines, as I’m set to move to another country soon to get married,” she said. “My fiancé and I are already planning to continue the booth when we’re able to.”
But while Portraits! by Loren will serve as her farewell to the Philippines, Loren said that this would open opportunities for other local artists to also push through with the concept.
“I want to invite local artists who are able to, to try and make their own portrait booth as well. It’s been a wild ride for me but it has helped me get my art out there,” she said. “A lot of people were enthusiastic about having a portrait booth for their events, so there really is a market for that here.” – Rappler.com
You can catch Portraits! by Loren in the following events:
- June 7-9: Paseo Center
- June 14-16: Three Central Mall