Tonight is my last in Switzerland, after a wonderful almost-week filled with good times hanging out with old friends, quality time spent thinking about, talking about, and using photobooths, plus a few mountain railways and raclette thrown in for authenticity’s sake.
On Saturday, I headed down to Montreux and up into the mountains and Rochers-de-Naye for some snow and sunshine before returning to the Musée one last time. I shot some more footage and took some strips with Danny, Carole, and Siobhan.
We enjoyed a walk down to the lake and through Ouchy, and planned to meet up in Geneva later that night. Danny went on his way back to Istanbul (eventually), while the London and Chicago contingents and I met up at Curiositas for a tasty dinner. Anthony, Andrea, Carole, Siobhan, and I all said goodbye until May, which isn’t so far away.
On Sunday, I headed to Zürich, and immediately upon arrival, sought out Martin Balke, the father of the Swiss photobooth, with whom I spent the rest of the day. We talked, we took photos, we looked inside the machine, we talked some more… He and his family treated me to an authentic Swiss dinner, and I very much enjoyed spending time with them.
It was a real pleasure getting to know Martin and hearing fifty years of stories from this brilliant and passionate man, who still maintains the only native Swiss photobooth still active in the country. Now that Anthony’s refurbished Model 14 has arrived at the Musée in Lausanne, Martin’s machine has some company, but his photoautomat is unique survivor, a different strain of photobooth altogether. Though I’d seen scans of the photos it produces, there’s nothing like holding them in your hand; they’re quite simply the best photobooth photos I’ve ever seen.
This morning, after a few more funiculars and cog railways, I met up with Martin again for more good conversation, and then spent an enlightening hour and a half researching Prontophot, the Swiss photobooth company that started in the 1930s and was later taken over by Photo-Me, from material in the collection of the Swiss National Museum. Thanks to Nora, whom I met in Lausanne, for tipping me off to the stuff, and to Betty at the Museum for taking the time to show it to me. There were some fascinating finds in those files…
Tomorrow, it’s back to Los Angeles, and less than three months before the photobooth convention. We heard from many people from all over the world at the Musée who pledged to come to L.A. for the convention, so now we’d better make it great. We’ll keep you posted.