Photo Booth Art / Performance Art by Bethann Shannon
100 Strangers Praying
Times Square 1986
I moved from Washington, DC to New York City in 1986 with a mission to find a doll maker for an angel I had a dream about. I took a job as a cocktail waitress at the brand new Marriott Marquis Hotel on Times Square.
In those days, Times Square was quite a bit different than it is today…filled with Triple X movie houses, crowded video arcades and hundreds of poor, penniless, homeless, desperate, and some dangerous souls wondering around the surrounding streets.
After work, I often stopped at an arcade called “PLAYLAND”. I would quickly run into the photo booth inside and take random shots documenting my mood at that moment. One day I found myself praying, really praying…praying hard for help.
The photo booth was an impromptu sanctuary in the midst of a chaotic world. It was private, quiet and reminded me of a church confessional…I closed the little curtains, put a dollar in the slot and started to pray. I remember feeling deep despair that day. I needed help. I needed God to be real.
Shortly after, the picture popped out, I was struck by the beauty of the image of prayer, I decided to continue for one year as a spiritual, if not literally self reflective exercise.
There was also part of me that felt like “Here! I have actual proof that I was praying!” Perhaps I could do an experiment with God?…Will he answer my prayers?…How long does it take to have prayers answered? Or even if there really was a God to validate my prayers? I was consumed with questions about God, spirituality and prayer.
My personal struggles with Faith, God and Religion is a reoccurring theme in my life and my art work.
It was a few days into the project when I found myself thinking about other people…I started watching the people in the arcade and on the streets of Times Square….Do they pray? What do they pray for? How do they look when they pray?
It was at that moment I decided to include strangers in this series of photographs. It was very spontaneous and accidental really…not calculated or planned.
I began approaching strangers everyday for 4 months to pray with me in that photo booth…these are the results…
100 STRANGERS PRAYING