Our pent-up emotions are being exhumed in the name of art. Or therapy. Or anger management.
Photographer Billy Hunt has designed a machine that's essentially a redesigned karaoke boombox from the 1990s, which he calls the Screamotron3000. Step in front of the Screamotron, scream as loud as you can, and the camera inside will snap a picture when you hit a certain audio frequency.
Hunt began the project as something of a lark, but soon discovered that he was hitting all the right nerves with people.
"When I made this thing, I had no idea what would happen," he told The Huffington Post. "Originally I'd just made it for myself."
After mounting a small installation at the Santa Fe Center for Photography, he realized the effect his device had on people. Every time he brought the Screamotron somewhere, hundreds of people, many of whom were far from art-lovers, lined up to try it out. Or they would simply watch as other people let out their aggression.
At one fundraiser in Virginia, it became a piece of theater. What started small got larger as a 200-seat auditorium filled past capacity. When members of the crowd liked a scream, Hunt said, they would "golf clap" their approval.
As far as the participants go, Hunt said, there's a major discrepancy between the reactions of women and children and those of men, who have a harder time screaming without seeming self-conscious. Hunt thinks it's psychological, or perhaps something more than that.
"Dudes are the worst," he said. "I have to turn the sensitivity of the machine up for men. Maybe because they're more repressed, or maybe women and children just have more to scream about."
He says people have lots of different strategies for screaming in front of the camera. Some curse out the photographer, others rip off their clothes or scream, "You never loved me!" Hunt has seen all sorts of things. But mostly people are just anxious to make the machine work.
That's what's most interesting to Hunt: the way the scream machine functions as an art project, a science experiment and a therapy session all at once. It also shatters people's preconceptions about sitting for a portrait.
"You're watching this war in people's brains, where they want to look good but they also really want to make the machine work," Hunt said. "Somehow because I made a machine, it allows people to engage with it, and puts a buffer between me and taking the image. I'm [also] just giving people an excuse to scream."
With a recent high-profile "Today Show" appearance and more upcoming festival and event appearances in the works, Hunt hopes to take the project on the road.
And, he added, if "Usher or Justin Bieber" want to take a screaming picture, he's game.
Watch a video of the screamers:
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