ALBANY, NY (NEWS10) – JP Elario has been photographing weddings for nearly 30 years. He took over Elario Photography from his father, who started the business in 1984. In 2014, he started offering free pop-up portraits to random people on the street.
Elario said he wanted to give people a chance to get in front of the camera and walk away with some footage he hoped would make them feel good about themselves. He said it was a bit of a social experiment at first.
“I wanted to see how many people I could reach if I started a message in the morning pop-ups on Insta, Facebook and Twitter,” Elario said.
During the first pop-up, he photographed over 40 people. As the pop-ups grew in popularity, Elario said he photographed fewer random people and more people who knew the event was going to happen. At its second pop-up in Saratoga Springs in 2014, more people showed up than the first.
The photos taken by Elario during the pop-ups are in black and white and on a white background. He doesn’t charge for photos because that would essentially be “work” for him. Elario said it’s a project he likes to do.
In 2021, Elario began partnering with DJ Trumastr for pop-up events. DJ Trumastr is an Albany-based touring DJ who draws inspiration from the classic sounds of jazz, funk, hip hop, R&B and soul.
“Last year I decided I wanted to amp up the event and add some music that wasn’t a Bluetooth speaker. Tru makes art when he’s behind his table. Basically, the vibrations that he gives off musically fuels my creativity and gives me life to do funny portraits. He is the soundtrack to my pop-up portraits,” Elario said.
Everyone who comes to the event writes a journal entry with their name, age, and something they want to say. They also sign a release form so Elario can use the images and associate the diary entry next to one of their photos. Elario said he finds it interesting to see what people’s handwriting looks like next to their faces.
Elario said the whole shooting process takes about two to three minutes, but people wait up to 30 to 40 minutes in line. “There is no registration. You just show up, let your guard down and we fire.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Elario offered contextual portraits on FaceTime. It was the only time he charged for the photos because he needed to compensate for the loss of business due to the closure. Elario said he photographed more than 250 people over the course of three to four weeks.
Elario has done five pop-ups so far: two in 2014, one in 2016, one in 2019 and one in 2021. Last year he photographed around 120 people at the event.
Elario’s next pop-up was scheduled for Thursday, May 19, but was canceled due to weather. He plans to reschedule this pop-up event for later this month.
The pop-ups take place outside the Elario Photography studio on Madison Avenue. You can follow Elario’s Instagram page to see when the next pop-up is once it’s announced.