September 09, 2008


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.

September 07, 2008


In the first installment of a week-long look at new and recent photobooth books, we’ve got a copy of Dan Zelinsky and the Musée Mécanique’s wonderful new creation, Lost & Found at the Musée Mécanique. Styled like a pin-bound fan-style book of paint samples, the book is an actual-size reproduction of more than 150 photostrips left behind and collected at the San Francisco institution over the last 35 years.

The Musée, home to mechanical musical instruments, arcade games, fortune-telling machines, and two great black and white booths (1 and 2) began as the collection of Edward Zelinsky, and is now under the care of his son Dan Zelinsky, who assembled this book.

During a trip to the Musée in February, we learned about Dan’s plans for the book, and we’re very happy to see it has become a reality.

You can buy the book in person if you’re in San Francisco (and if you’re passing through, a trip to Pier 45 is a must), or you can order the book on the Musée’s website. Let them know you heard about it here; we don’t get anything out of it, we’re just curious.

September 02, 2008

It’s time for more updates and a few random tidbits from around the photobooth world: first of all, did anyone out there know that Kenneth Cole made a style of boot named Photo Booth?

Now that that game-changing piece of news is out of the way, on to more relevant things: first, Ted Travelstead’s “Suggested Poses for Photo-Booth Pictures” from McSweeney’s is pretty great. 

They start out small: “(a) Big ol’ cheesy smile, (b) “I am not a crook” face with double peace sign, © Doin’ the funky chicken,” and quickly progress to the very involved: “(a) Peacocking for the paparazzi on the red carpet at the premiere of your cinematic masterpiece, (b) Smoking a cigarette nonchalantly by the pool while half-listening to an eager interviewer, © Sweating profusely, cheap black hair dye running from your graying temples, as you desperately plead for a walk-on role in a C‑movie about a ghost clown so you can afford one more week in a seedy North Hollywood motel.” I’m not quite sure why he chose to list only three at a time, when photobooths come most commonly in strips of four, but that’s beside the point.

We gave up waiting for The Wonder Years to come out on DVD and managed to find another option for getting images from the episode titled “Summer Song,” in which Kevin and his family go to Ocean City and he meets Teri, an older girl who takes a liking to him. They take some photos in a booth, and Kevin cherishes them forever, of course. 

We’ve also added a page for a Danish film titled Mig og mafiaen (“Me and the Mafia”), which turns out to be a remake of Ooh… You Are Awful, right down to the photobooth sequence.

Director Bruce McDonald’s The Tracey Fragments uses multiple images and split-screen techniques to bring to life the mental state of a teenage girl, played by Ellen Page. At one point she takes some photos in a photobooth, and we watch as they turn out

And finally, something we’ve been meaning to post for ages and have had no good reason not to: an interview with photobooth artist Daniel Minnick, a friend and contributor to, on Todd Wemmer’s Lost and Found Photos blog. Thanks to Todd for sending us the link.

August 31, 2008

It’s not clear from the article whether or not the Smithsonian Institution has a photobooth (though they certainly should), but the September issue of the institution’s Smithsonian Magazine covers the history of photobooths in a piece titled “Four for a Quarter” (archived on our site here) that is well worth a read. 

In the article, writer Kenneth R. Fletcher talks with Nakki Goranin about her book and discusses the history and future of photobooths. Accompanying the online version of the article are a photo gallery, a short video, and an interview with the author, who discusses writing the piece.

Fletcher mentions in the piece and in his interview; welcome to all of those who are visiting our site thanks to the article. 

August 28, 2008


Thanks to some new-found success locating old TV shows and some helpful contributions from readers, we’ve been making steady progress adding to the growing body of photobooth knowledge and information over the past few weeks.

First, from our contributors, two western American photobooths we’ve long heard of but haven’t had the chance to visit: the great old booth at Arcade Amusements in Manitou Springs, Colorado, seen at right. It’s one of those booths that’s been at its location “forever,” and we’re glad it’s still working.

Second, we received a report and photos from a Model 20A at

Stellar Pizza, Ale, & Cocktails, located in Seattle, adding to that city’s impressive tally of photochemical photobooths.

In the world of TV, we’ve added a few obscure and international shows over the last few weeks, including two British shows: an episode of “Midsomer Murders” and one from the BBC’s “The Smoking Room,” seen here:

On the domestic front, we’ve finally been able to get images from two long-standing photobooths-on-TV rumors: first, we’ve got Scooby-Doo, Dick van Dyke, and a photobooth, as the gang visits a “Haunted Carnival” (what else?). And finally, we’ve watched it so you don’t have to: an episode of “Power Rangers in Space” which lifts the “superhero caught changing from mild-mannered alter ego in a photobooth” plotline from Superman III.

August 03, 2008

As we continue to catalog the history of photobooths, the photos they produce, and the way people viewed, displayed, and shared those photos, we’ve come across some interesting items on eBay.


This beautiful deco frame, made to perfectly fit one photobooth photo, held a beautiful hand-tinted photo of a woman in a hat and fur. After it arrived, I noticed that another piece of paper seemed to be sitting behind the photo, and when I pulled it out, I discovered that it was another photo from the same strip. I pulled out the original photo, and discovered two more photos, as well, making what seemed to be the complete strip. None of the other three photos are tinted.

The corners of each photo are worn enough that I can’t be sure they all came from the same strip; they could be the chosen four from two sittings done one after the other, but either way, it was an excellent unadvertised surprise.

Brian | 4:49 pm | History
July 21, 2008

Big news in the photoboooth world, as Photo-Me International has sold off its American division, Reuters reports:

Photo-Me, which operates about 21,000 photo booths in railway stations, airports and shopping centres, said the sale of Auto Photo Systems Inc and its unit, Photo-Me USA LLC., would yield a small exceptional profit.

Photo-Me shares gained 13 percent to 13.25 pence at 0928 GMT, valuing the entire firm at about 48 million pounds.

No financial details were provided, but Photo-Me said the U.S. business, which operated 250 photobooths, or about 1 percent of its group total, made a pre-tax loss of 700,000 pounds ($1.39 million) on revenues of 1.2 million pounds in the fiscal year just ended.

Jean-Claude Perrottey, a former employee of Photo-Me, bought the business, the company said.

The USA has always been a limited market for ID photography and US vending has tended to be loss-making in recent years,” Photo-Me said in the statement.

We’ll see what this means for the 250 booths (a number that’s new to us) in the U.S. operated by Photo-Me. Thanks to Gary for the tip on this. 

July 20, 2008


We’ve got a lot of photobooth news to get off our desks and into the archive, so we’re putting it all together into one mega-post. First, we start with a video interview on with Sub Pop’s vice president, Megan Jasper, as she gives a tour of the offices, including their in-house photobooth, not far from the soda machine that dispenses 75¢ Rainier beer. Nice. We’ve mentioned their booth before, and you can also check out more bands in the photobooth on their blog.

Secondly, we heard from Jeff from Comedy Photobooth, who let us know about the videos of comedians telling jokes inside photobooths — and if you were curious, all of the videos are shot inside photochemical booths. We’ve got the site listed in our Projects section now, and we’ll watch as it grows.

We’ve neglected to mention the ubiquitous Tonight Showphony photobooth,” a series of videos which show unwitting photobooth-goers being freaked out by a talking photobooth, but it’s out there, and everyone seems to have seen it. Along those lines, we came across another photobooth prank video, in which a woman in a photobooth asks passersby to hold articles of her clothing, and it becomes apparent she’s taking off all her clothes in the booth. The clip seems to have originated on a Fox reality show called “Sexy Cam” (anyone ever heard of it? No? Didn’t think so), and the booth setting looks suspiciously like a mall in Canada.

And speaking of Canada, on an altogether much more interesting note, we caught word of a show in Vancouver called “Requiem for a Photobooth: 3 punk bands, 4 shots, 1 minute of silence,” by the artist Femke van Delft. More information on the project can be found on her site, and on this local blog. The show seems to have ended this past week, and we welcome any more information and first-hand reports on what it was like.

snaps.jpgIn late 2007, we received an email from director Graham Rathlin, who was working on a short film set in a photobooth and needed a real booth to shoot it in. We helped get him in touch with the folks who manage Berlin’s fine booths, and a few months later, he sent us a link to his finished short, titled Little Snaps of Horror. You can view the film on

And finally, from the Coincidence Department, we’ve got two “About Us” pages from Chicago-based organizations that use photobooth photos. Now, we know that Chicago is America’s photobooth capital, but even this is a little strange.


First, from skinnyCorp, the folks behind the phenomenon that is Threadless, a page featuring a number of shots from the same booth, which you can see on their site and archived here.

And secondly, the Neo-Futurists’ Ensemble and Alumni page (archived in our Web section), featuring dozens of black and white photobooth photos of past and current members of this Chicago theater collective.


July 14, 2008

News from Reuters and The Press Association this week of Photo-Me’s continued woes — the company’s stock, which lost 84% of its value in the last year, fell 6 percent more this week — but they are hoping for “one-digit solid profitable growth” next year, in the words of CEO Thierry Barel.

As for the news of more losses, an analyst offered this choice quote:

The results were just what we were looking for… The photo-booth business just throws off money.”

Hmm. That doesn’t sound good. The Reuters article continues, “[Barel] had considered selling the core vending business, which is suffering as passport agencies move to centralised biometric data collection, but the board had received no acceptable offers.” The failed sale led to losses totalling “£14.8 million of one-off items.” We previously covered Photo-Me’s attempts to sell off its photobooth division in 2006 and 2007.

Barel continued, “There is a risk of further deterioration in photo booths… We decided to accelerate diversification to depend less and less on photo booths.” So, if the booth business “throws off money,” passport agencies are moving away from accepting photobooth photos for identification, and no other companies are interested in buying Photo-Me’s photobooth division, what happens next? What does the future hold for the the thousands of photobooths around the world owned by Photo-Me? 

One person who might have an answer is Hugo Swire, the news chairman of Photo-Me, who is profiled in a recent piece in the Telegraph that is definitely worth a read. 

Brian | 8:05 am | In the News
June 26, 2008

charles_boyer.jpgWe continue Photomaton Week here at (don’t worry, it’s unofficial, you didn’t miss the announcement) with a spectacular trove of French photographic history. Thanks to a Google Alert pointing out a post on Dinosaurs and Robots, we found this group of photos that fits right in with the renaissance (nice) of the Parisian photobooth: an amazing set of more than 150 photobooth shots from the 1930s — 1950s, all featuring the friendly face of Willy Michel, Photomaton’s man in Paris during that time.

Titled “Aux origines du Photomaton,” the set of photos features faces that will be familiar to fans of the films of Melville, Clouzot, and Renoir, as well as some other recognizable faces, including a young Errol Flynn, Bing Crosby, Erich von Stroheim (wow!) and Arthur Rubenstein. Almost more fascinating than the faces of the actors are the faces of Michel, sometimes eerily consistent from photo to photo, but also greatly changed over the decades the photos were taken. It’s worth the time it takes to flip through all of these priceless photos, each a testament to the enduring power of the photobooth to capture a genuine, spontaneous moment in time.

Willy Michel and Charles Boyer from Aux origines du Photomaton.

Brian | 9:50 pm | History