THE PHOTOBOOTH BLOG
April 20, 2019



For the fourth year in a row, I’ve been lucky enough to travel outside the U.S., mostly for work, to a country with a homegrown photobooth scene, and have been able to check in with the enterprising person or people behind the ongoing existence of analog photobooths in their country (see 2016: Italy and the Netherlands; 2017: France and Czech Republic; and 2018: Canada). This streak continued earlier this month with a visit to Zürich and Lausanne, Switzerland. Last time I was in Lausanne for the “Derrière le rideau” art show in 2012, I found a lone booth in Zürich and a temporary machine at the museum in Lausanne where the photobooth exhibition was held.

Seven years later, I’m happy to be able to report that the solitary booth in Zürich—which, for my money, produces the most beautiful photobooth photos I’ve ever seen—is still in operation, and is now joined by two new photochemical machines in lovely working order. And that temporary booth in Lausanne has remained long after the show closed, and is now a staple at the museum cafe where has resided ever since opening night, February 16, 2012.

I arrived in Zürich on the morning of April 3, and my first stop after checking into my hotel was the familiar address of Goldbrunnenstraße 128, outside the home of the machine’s co‐inventor, Martin Balke. The machine is still in great shape, with only a few more stickers applied to the top sign indicating that time had passed since I was last there. I later learned that the machine may be in its last year at this location, but I’ll keep my fingers crossed that it doesn’t leave Zürich altogether.

After taking as many 2 franc photos as I could manage with the change I’d gotten from from ViCAFE down the street (thanks!), I bid farewell to the machine and headed out on the rest of my day.

That evening, I met Patrick, who runs two photobooths in town, at his machine outside the Helsinki Club, at Geroldstr. 31.

We had a great conversation about how he got started, the sort of experiences he’s had with the booth, his plans for the future, and so on, and took a strip in the machine. He was kind enough to then drive me across to his second booth, a machine we didn’t know about, located outside Kosmos, a new cinema, restaurant, and bar.

We took another strip in that machine, looked at its immaculate inner workings, and talked about the vagaries of photobooth locations, vandalism (not a real problem in Switzerland), photobooth supplies, and potential new locations around town.

Patrick sent me on my way with a great restaurant recommendation, and a promise to keep me posted on further Zürich locations to come.

By Friday, I had made my way down to Lausanne, where my conference was being held, and I stopped in at the Musée de l’Elysée, where I had last been seven years ago. I had recently been in touch with Yannick, who takes care of the booth there, and was pleasantly surprised to hear that it was still up and running, long after the show that brought it there had moved on.

When I arrived, I found out that Yannick was away for the week—my fault for not getting in touch earlier—and that, sadly, the machine was out of order. I asked Sebastien, the nice guy who was entertaining my inquiries, if I might take a peek inside, and he was happy to oblige. I cleared a jam in the feed down unit, fiddled with the transmission a bit, and bingo! it was back to life. The machine was already in great shape, so it was easy to troubleshoot, but making a quick fix certainly made me look more skilled than I actually am. I took some strips, including one with Sebastien, and reminisced about the great time I’d had at the show in 2012, while also learning about Platforme 10, the new multi‐institutional space that will become the museum’s home next year. Sebastien assured me the photobooth would be making the move with the museum.

It was a real pleasure meeting Patrick, and despite my missed connection with Yannick, I felt like we met up if only through a few jammed strips in the machine and a cache of his test strips I spied on the top of the booth. Next time! And the year is not up yet—before the end of 2019, I hope to stop by the booths in Vienna and finally make a pilgrimage to the epicenter of the European photobooth scene, Berlin.

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