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Steampunk Smiles: Couple Launches Unusual Photo Company

By Victoria Johnson | February 8, 2013 12:44pm

LOGAN SQUARE — After returning home after several months volunteering at an orphanage in Nepal, Logan Square couple Theresa McMullen and Nick Harvey needed to find a way to make a living.

They came up with what they're hoping is a picture perfect plan: a big camera they built out of solid oak and brass that looks like something out of a Jules Verne novel.

McMullen, formerly in advertising, and Harvey, an ex-videographer, had noticed how much fun their guests had with a DIY photo booth they set up last fall at their wedding celebration.

Rented, portable photo booths are common at parties and other events but they're often big, bulky and boxy.

"A lot of the photo booths are almost like an eyesore at parties," McMullen, 26, said. "It's just there for function and not how it looks."

So, the two decided to make a camera that combined form and function. They used solid oak for the housing, with brass fittings for the lens and built-in flash.

For the finishing touch, they added folding leather bellows, giving the camera a kind of 19th century Steampunk chic.

"It's basically made of the stuff we found at the hardware store and then sort of tweaked," Harvey said.

And so, Fotio was born.

They launched a website last month and already they've worked a handful of parties and weddings. Harvey finds that without the need for a booth and curtains, people can mix more with the rest of the party instead of isolating themselves in photobooths.

The pair find a nice background or hang a backdrop, put up the camera and they're ready to shoot.

"It's kind of fun because I think it's a lot more social," he said.

The photos then play in a slideshow on a 2-inch display on the back of the camera so party goers can check out the pictures throughout the event.

McMullen and Harvey post the photos after the event so customers can buy high-resolution digital copies suitable for print.

"We put them up really quick, so it's kind of funny to see how quick people's profile picture change," Harvey said.

Surprisingly, they haven't worked any Steampunk parties yet, but McMullen said they're on the lookout.

"We didn't know it at the time, but we're really glad that it does fit into the Steampunk look," she said.

The couple will have their Fotio camera set up at a Valentine's Day party at the River Shannon pub in Lincoln Park and are always open to shoot weddings, company events, and of course, the stray Steampunk party here and there.