Covering the world of photobooths as we do from our home base in the United States, it’s often difficult for us to gauge the impact and explore the history of photobooths in other countries. We know about the present-day fotoautomaten around Germany, and about the demise of photochemical booths in Switzerland, and the interesting booths we’ve learned about in places like Helsinki and Kiev, but we don’t have a tangible sense of the depth of influence that the photobooth has had in many places outside our own sphere.
Over the years, though, thanks to enthusiasts and scholars around the world, we’ve been able to learn more about the role of the photobooth internationally. The importance of the photobooth in Italian arts and history in particular has become increasingly clear, and though it seems nearly all photochemical booths have been wiped off the Italian map, we have ample evidence of their historical significance.
Today, we present the first of two Italian photobooth books we’ve learned of recently: Photomatic e altre storie, a collection of works by the photographer Franco Vaccari, with accompanying essays by art historians and critics. I’d first like to thank Marco for letting us know about this book and for sending us a copy as part of an international photobooth book exchange — who knows how long it would have taken us to come across it without Marco’s help.
Franco Vaccari, a photographer who has been exhibiting work in Italy and around the world for more than 40 years, is best known for his “Exhibitions in Real Time,” primarily the piece he exhibited at the Venice Biennale in 1972, “Leave a photographic trace of your passage on these walls.” Visitors to the exhibition found a photobooth in the middle of a room, and were encouraged to take a photostrip and hang it on the wall.
Vaccari also collected submissions of photostrips from ordinary Italians, taken in 700 photobooths all over the country, some of which are collected in the book.
One of the most appealing elements of the book for us is the series of portraits of the photobooths themselves, looking timeless but also very much of their era, in train stations, city centers, and along the side of the road.
If you’re interested in the international history of photobooths, and in the investigations into individuality and identity that Vaccari undertakes, we highly recommend picking up this book, which seems to be available from a number of European booksellers, as well as the publisher.