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At the MFA, just shoot me

Old photo booth inspired by exhibit

At museums, it's expected you'll have the chance to see art. But how often do you get to take a crack at making it yourself?

Through May 14, the Museum of Fine Arts is inviting you to do just that -- at $2 a pop.

Fresh from viewing the 150 paintings, drawings, etchings, lithographs, photographs, and watercolors in the David Hockney Portraits exhibit in the Gund Gallery, visitors are welcome to strike equally dramatic poses. They can go it alone, as a solitary portrait (in the four traditional photo machine poses), in pairs, or in as large a group as can cram into the old-fashioned photo booth set up in the hallway at the exhibit's end.

Among the 1,500-plus visitors who have immortalized themselves in black and white since the machine was installed in February is Ava Sukenik of Foxborough, who spent a recent Sunday afternoon at the MFA.

Describing her discovery of the machine as an ''unexpected surprise," Sukenik called it the perfect end to a perfect day, capturing on film a reminder of her wanderings through the collections.

''Whenever I see beautiful art, I'm filled with happiness," she said. ''And now that feeling is also in my pictures. It's like a souvenir."

The photos were also souvenirs for Kristin Zirkel of Clinton and her 10-year-old niece, Hayley Hamparian, who is from Hudson. Their annual aunt-niece outings are always memorable, but the photos captured the special moment, Zirkel said. ''I'm sure when she's 50, she'll look at them and really appreciate it."

''Appreciation" is the impetus behind bringing in the circa-1960 booth. ''David Hockney Portraits offers a vibrant and intimate look at the friends, family, and lovers closest to the artist," said the MFA's director, Malcolm Rogers, through a spokeswoman. ''Our vintage photo booth allows our visitors -- compelled by the candidness and immediacy of Hockney's portraits -- to create their own black and white portraits."

Hockney's artistic vision subtly raises the bar for our own efforts, at least one photographic subject maintained.

''The first thing I noticed is how pale we all are in comparison to his brightly colored portraits," said Rebecca Schreiber of Somerville, who had just toured the exhibit with Terance Shreckengast, also of Somerville.

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