My wife and I took our seven month-old daughter on a trip to Europe this month, and like all of our vacations in recent years, it involved a few photobooth-related stops. I’d been corresponding over the years with Igor from La Joyeuse de Photographie, the group behind a number of photobooths in Paris, and I looked forward to visiting the booths he’d set up and hopefully meeting him. Unfortunately, our schedules didn’t mesh very well, I was only in town for a few days, and I wasn’t much of a night owl this time around. I figured that at least we’d visit the photobooth at the Bonton, so we could check out some kids’ clothes while we took our photos.
We arrived at midday, looked around at the very nice clothes for a bit, and then popped into the booth for some photos. We took two strips, and were very impressed with the quality of the images. The strips from that machine look really outstanding. My daughter still hasn’t gotten the knack of smiling in the photobooth yet, and is a little freaked out by the cramped space and bright flash, but she’ll get there.
As we made our way to the door to leave, I saw someone I recognized coming in: it was Igor! Having seen countless photobooth photos of him, I knew what he looked like, so I called out his name and introduced myself, and we had a chat for a few minutes. I couldn’t believe my luck; if we hadn’t gotten lost, if we hadn’t decided to walk instead of take the Metro, if we hadn’t taken that second strip of photos, we never would have run into him. He and I hopped in the booth to commemorate the moment, and then went our separate ways. It was great to meet and catch up, even for a moment, and I hope our paths will cross again. Thanks for the photos, Igor!
Later that night I was out with friends in Montmartre on the way to dinner and spotted this elaborate window display in a bookstore, Librarie des Abbesses, advertising Raynal Pellicer’s Photomaton.
After Paris, we traveled to Amsterdam for a few days, and though I don’t know of any photochemical booths there, I did manage to hop inside a beautiful Model 11 that should be familiar to our readers (and anyone out there using Pocketbooth). A few years ago, we heard from Peter and Ina, two arcade game collectors from outside Amsterdam, who wrote to tell us about their beautiful Model 11 photobooth, which we wrote about here.
I got in touch before we arrived in Amsterdam and Peter was kind enough to come into town to pick me up so I could visit with him and his wife and their friends, as well as see their beautiful machine. I wasn’t prepared for the fact that the photobooth was just one of more than 50 machines in their house; while I’m primarily interested in photobooths and am a novice when it comes to vintage arcade games and amusements, I really admired the amazing collection Peter and Ina have assembled. The mechanical complexity of some of these machines blows away the photobooth; talk about crazy innards, wow! The care with which they’ve arranged them, and decorated the walls around them, is quite amazing, as is simply seeing and hearing all of these machines blinking and humming away, completely filling the first floor of a house! Incredible.
Peter’s mechanical genius buddy Coos, who was also there that night, has rigged up Peter and Ina’s Model 11 as a digital photobooth, closely mimicking the output of a photochemical machine, and without permanently altering any of the machine’s photochemical parts. Most of the elements, the tanks and transmission and so on, are still inside, and anything that was removed, such as the camera, was kept and can be replaced. The digital innards consist of a digital camera, a small laptop, a dye-sub printer, and a custom-built trimmer that cuts a strip off of each side of the photobooth photos before sending the trimmed strip, now almost exactly the same size as a traditional strip of photos, into the drying slot. The machine turns out really nice photos, and Peter and Ina were kind enough to sit with me for a few with each of them.
In between taking photos and admiring the outside of the booth, I played some games of basketball, hockey, and bowling, tried to shoot some game and land a jet, watched some Scopitones and Soundies, and generally looked in awe at the amazing collection Peter and Ina have assembled.
It was a memorable evening, and I thank Peter, Ina, and Coos for their kindness and for taking the time to show me the wonderful collection.
After our visit to Amsterdam, we had a morning left in Paris before returning to L.A., and we decided to visit Le 104, both to see its photobooth and to see the giant carousel we’d read about. Unfortunately, the carousel wasn’t operating that day, but we found the photobooth in fine working order, and took a few strips of photos.
Next time, I’ll have to put Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and Italy on the photobooth itinerary, but for now, I was happy to meet some email acquaintances in person, and pleased to see that photobooths are alive and well in one way or another in Paris and Amsterdam.