July 05, 2005

mopa.jpgOut in San Diego this weekend for a wedding, we had a little free time to see what four-photo magic San Diego has to offer. The verdict? Not too shabby, actually.

My first stop was the The Museum of Photographic Arts, located where every other museum in San Diego lives, in Balboa Park. Next to the San Diego Historical Society and above the San Diego Model Railroad Museum, the MoPA is an interesting, if small, museum dedicated to photography. The gift shop features a wide array of photography books, picture frames, gifts, and not one but two photobooths. Side by side near the front entrance, a generic black and gray striped color booth and a beautiful rounded-end Model 11 B&W booth provide museum-goers with the opportunity to take both black-and-white and color photos, each for only $2. The photos aren’t perfect, but they’re certainly unique, and the price and convenience of these two booths in one place makes the MoPA a photobooth haven. On the outside of the black-and-white booth, a plaque tells users that the booth is similar to ones that they may have seen at a variety of California five-and-dime stores years ago. On the outside of the color booth hangs a photocopy of a San Diego paper article mentioning the booths (the article that had clued me in to their presence in the first place), as well as a mention from a school magazine about a photography class that took a field trip to the museum (and the booth).

Next up on the list was the Corvette Diner in Hillcrest. The only diner I’ve seen with valet parking, the Corvette was by far the busiest business around at 11am on a Saturday. Decorated with everything ’50s, neon, and retro, the diner is more than just a dining experience: a waiter throws a handful of straws at a table of children as a way of saying “hello,” waitresses in poodle skirts wear vests covered in flair, and portraits of every ’50s and ’60s icon from Sinatra to Buddy Holly to the Beatles, rendered a la Warhol, hang from the walls. In the lunch counter area in the front of the restaurant, just to the left of the stairs up to the main eating area, sits another gorgeous rounded-end Model 11. It takes crisp black-and-white photos, and looks to have been serviced a little more recently than the similar booth at the MoPA.

belmont_park.jpgThe next stop was Belmont Park, an amusement park in Mission Bay, just north of downtown San Diego. Home to an 80 year-old roller coast named the Giant Dipper, Belmont Park is a small amusement park with perhaps three rides in addition to the coaster. An indoor arcade features a digital photobooth, and I found two traditional booths located outside as I walked closer to the beach itself. The first booth is located in front of Waves Beach and Sportwear, and though it sounded like it was working, the green light wasn’t on, and the bill acceptor wasn’t accepting any bills. The booth was open on both sides, and a nice breeze blew through, brushing the curtains against me as I sat and unwisely dropped a quarter in the slot, just to see.

On the other side of the boardwalk, in front of the Krazy Kars building and under the shadow of the spinning pendulum ride, I found another outdoor color booth, with its little peaked roof and curtains on both sides. This booth was working, and came with the bonus of an abandoned strip in the drying slot. I took a few strips as the wind blew the curtain into the frame — not a problem you usually have to deal with — and called in the broken booth to Photo-Me.

The next day, I followed up on a rumor about a photobooth in a Kmart on Clairemont Mesa Boulevard in San Diego; unfortunately, the Kmart has become a “Sears Essentials” store, and I didn’t bother going in to check whether they’d retained their booth.

The last day of my trip to San Diego, I had a half hour to kill before brunch, and stopped in a used cd store to look around. A cd caught my eye: both the front and back covers were made up of a grid of old photobooth photos. Cool, I thought, and I held onto it while I browsed some more. Five minutes later, another album caught my eye: this one had five strips of photos, assembled together as a grid forming a single image. Same only different on the back cover, and more inside. What are the chances? I looked around for another, and came close with a few images on a Best of Everclear disc, but it only had one or two images, not enough for my newly-high standards. The DJ Shitbird and Wannadies albums will be posted in the Music section as soon as we create one. Well done San Diego!


  1. 1

    Cool, interesting write-up.

    On the topic of CDs featuring photobooth photos, I know of a few. The first is probably stating the obvious, but just in case: Dave Navarro’s solo album (“Trust No One”, 2001) was originally going to be released at the same time as the book (which got delayed a few years) and has a lot of photobooth photos.

    The Swedes album Photolab 9000 (available at features a cover with a lot of photobooth photos. I don’t own the album.

    Lavish have an album called Polaroid (released on the Festival label). Despite the name of the album the liner notes don’t feature any Polaroid material. What it does have is someone sitting in a photobooth on the front cover, and a closeup of the photo eject slot on the back cover. No actual photobooth photos, but rather photos of photobooths. I think Lavish are an Australian band, and I don’t think the CD would have had much (if any) international distribution.

    I know I have others (obviously photobooth photos are quite common in liner notes), but those are the only ones I can think of off the top of my head. I can scan the Navarro and Lavish albums for you sometime if you want.

  2. 2

    Thanks, Lewis. We’re working on it, but your tips are news to me. We’ll include them when we get the chance to add the Music section. Thanks for reading.

  3. 3
    Photo Tech 


    First of all, thank you for the write up… glad you had some success finding booths in San Diego. I apologize for the studio in Belmont Park not working. If you get another chance to make it to San Diego again, send me a note. I want to make sure the booths are up to speed.


    Photo Tech