The newspapers of Australia’s Fairfax Media Limited have hit the stands today with a one-two punch of photobooth-related stories by reporter Lindy Percival. First, the bad news: in The Age, Percival interviews Melbourne photobooth proprietor Alan Adler in a piece titled “Future of the old photo booth not so picture perfect” (archived on our site here). Adler, who has been running photochemical booths in Melbourne for nearly 40 years, sees the end of the business in sight, saying “We’re having trouble getting paper at the moment. I’ve got a couple of months’ supply and I’m hoping I get some more, but it’s becoming very expensive … We’ll keep going for another couple of years probably. But I’d sooner be playing with my grandchildren than playing with photo booths.” Here’s hoping he keeps up the booths as long as he can; we know those machines have a lot of fans (see our Melbourne listings here, here, and here).
Then, of course, there’s the good news. In a companion piece in the Sydney Morning Herald called “The strip of a lifetime” (archived here), Percival writes about the enthusiasts and artists who are still using the photochemical booths today, with a timely look at Raynal Pellicer’s book Photobooth: The Art of the Automatic Portrait (which we’ll review soon) and a mention of our site as well. Australia’s photobooths are some of the furthest-flung examples of the photochemical machine still in use today, cherished by locals and sought out by visitors, and we hope renewed interest thanks to these articles will help them continue well into the future.
I’ve been on the lookout for interesting Photomatic photos for a few years now, and have found a few on eBay and at photo shows, but I’ve never seen one quite like this. It features a flat frame and customized back panel like many Photomatics, but the photo isn’t one that was taken in a traditional Photomatic booth.
Instead, it looks like the machine was set up inside a “Can-Do-Special” (“Can-Do,” “C and O,” very clever), a “full-size replica of a 490 engine cab” from the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad, according to this photograph and description found on the Cleveland State University’s Cleveland Memory Project site.
The unnamed little girl poses as though she’s operating the train, and the Photomatic’s flash is seen reflected in the window to her left. We can see part of the control mechanisms, a sign reading “C and O,” and a few lines from some handwritten documents hanging on the wall above her. It’s a wonderful photograph, recording an exciting moment in this girl’s life, but also capturing the heyday of two technologies now consigned to the museum: the steam engine and the Photomatic photobooth.
While it’s a change that probably means more to those of us behind the curtain (get it?) than to our readers, we’re happy to announce that we’ve successfully emerged from a somewhat hairy changeover from Movable Type, the blogging platform with which we began this site back in 2005, to WordPress, something we’ve wanted to do for years but finally had the time and inclination to do recently. Thanks to Tim for all of his technical expertise, to MakeMyBlogPretty.com for their migration walk-through, and to the creators of the plugins and widgets we used to make the transition as seamless as possible for our readers: Custom Upload Dir, PHP Markdown, Search and Replace, Relevanssi, Wickett Twitter Widget, and Widget Context.
The only changes readers will notice will be for the better, we hope: better searching, fewer missing pages due to crashes on the back end, and so on. We’re still checking through to make sure all of our entries and comments are there, that all of the incoming links to our old pages redirect to our new ones, and so on, so if you see anything fishy, please let us know. We look forward to years of greater stability, flexibility, and creativity in the future. Now, back to those photobooths…