September 14, 2008


We’re ending Book Week with an oldie but a goodie, the catalog for the ground-breaking group show called “Photomaton: A Contemporary Survey of Photobooth Art,” which took place at the Pyramid Arts Center in Rochester, New York more than twenty years ago, in the winter of 1987–88. The catalog has been somewhat hard to come by, and copies show up on eBay on average maybe once a year in the four years we’ve been paying attention, usually running around $100 a copy. I managed to pick up a copy for about twenty bucks in August, just in time to bring everyone a closer look at it.

Having not seen one of these catalogs before, the first thing that struck me about it was its size; it’s not a full-size 8.5″ x 11″ publication; it’s more like 7″ x 8.5″, no taller than it needs to be to fit one scale photostrip vertically on the page. Featuring work on the front cover by Herman Costa and on the back cover by Jef Aerosol, the catalog samples the work of thirteen photobooth artists, with images and biographies of each artist.

Curator and artist Bern Boyle wrote a preface to the catalog in which he explains the exhibition.

This exhibit was designed as an overview, and does not include all photobooth artists, or all of the photobooth works of the exhibiting artists. But it is quite a beginning, and in addition to calling attention to the artists whose works are shown here, it should encourage other exhibits and stimulate historical research.

Indeed, it was quite a beginning, and the intervening years have seen many photobooth-related exhibitions and, as we’ve seen this week, much historical research.

The catalog continues with a brief essay titled “Photobooth History and Development,” also by Boyle, which begins with the history of coin-operated vending machines and passes through Mathew Steffens, “Monsieur Enjalbert,” and Anatol Josepho, all familiar names in the development of the technology. Boyle mentions Warhol’s role in using the photobooth in the creation of art, and continues by discussing the techniques and interests of each of the artists in the show.


The show came at a time when photobooths seemed to be on the wane, but before the digital revolution that would be their most serious threat. Boyle writes

There are still streamlined, curved photobooths around producing strips of four black and white pictures, but many machines are being converted to color or abandoned for the square-format color machines. We now have machines that will videotape you and your friends and machines that will give you a roll of 35mm film ready to process, instead of the traditional photos!

Each artist is given a page that includes a sample self-portrait photostrip, their birth date and place of residence, as well as an artist’s statement. Sample work from selected artists is featured next, followed by a selected bibliography.


We hope you’ve enjoyed Book Week; here’s a link to all of the entries in case you missed any. I started it a little haphazardly and had only planned to write about two or three books, but when I looked around, I realized there were more works out there that I hadn’t given proper attention to, enough to flesh out a full seven days’ worth of posts. Please let us know what you think of the books if you pick up copies for yourselves, and we’d appreciate any tips on more works not in our Photobooths In Print section.

Brian | 8:38 pm | Art, History

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