Archive: History

December 18, 2011

The new year is nearly upon us, and it’s just two months to go until the opening of photobooth exhibition at the Musée de l’Elysee in Lausanne, Switzerland. We mentioned the show here back in September, and in the intervening months, we’ve been working on our contribution to the exhibition, and hearing from others in the community about the show. If you’re a fan of the history and art of the photobooth, it’s safe to say that it would be a good idea to find a way to make it to Switzerland between February and May of next year.

From the museum’s website:

When the first photobooths were set up in Paris in 1928, the Surrealists used them heavily and compulsively. Within minutes, and for a small price, the machine offered them, in the field of portraiture, an experience similar to automatic writing. Since then, generations of artists have been fascinated by the photobooth concept. From Andy Warhol to Arnulf Rainer, Thomas Ruff, Cindy Sherman and Gillian Wearing, many used it to play with their identity, tell stories, or simply create worlds.

The show includes over 300 exhibits and brings together different media — oil paintings, lithographs, edited films /videos and screenings — revealing the extent of the influence of the photobooth within the artistic community.

I’ll be attending the opening, and I look forward to meeting some of the other artists, historians, and enthusiasts who will be in attendance, as well as old friends from the community who will be making the trip from the U.S. and elsewhere in Europe. We will report back on the show for those who aren’t able to make it. Let us know if you’re coming and we’ll make a point of meeting up in snowy Lausanne.

October 20, 2011

Barbara Kent, one of the last living silent film stars, passed away last week at the age of 103. She starred in films directed by William Wyler and Leo McCarey, and acted alongside such screen legends as Greta Garbo, Edward G. Robinson, and Harold Lloyd. One of her lesser-known claims to fame is the fact that she starred in two of the very first films to feature a photobooth, Lonesome (1928) and Welcome Danger (1929).

In both films, the machine takes a single photo which it returns in a small circular frame; in the case of Welcome Danger, the machine isn’t even really a booth, but still features the same technology and returns the same end product. Of course, the film is a Harold Lloyd comedy, so something manages to go wrong in the process…

October 15, 2011

We’ve been cataloging and collecting appearances of photobooths and photostrips in cinema for more than eight years now. A few years back, we came across two films from very early on in the history of the photobooth (1928’s Lonesome and 1929’s Welcome, Danger), and we’ve got many films from the 1940s onward — with especially strong representation from the last decade or so. But until this week, the 1930s, the first full decade of the photobooth’s existence, has been missing from our list. 

I’ve always been certain that filmmakers in the 1930s would have been eager to feature the fashionable new invention in their films, but films of the 1930s aren’t the easiest to come across, and until now we hadn’t been able to find any examples of the photobooth in that decade.

I knew that The Long Night was a remake of Marcel Carné’s Le jour se lève, but I hadn’t had a chance to see if the photobooth strip in the later film had been inherited from the original. Indeed it was, and we’ve added Le jour se lève to our list.

Last month, we heard from Les Matons that a reference was made to Maurice Tourneur’s film Samson on the French Wikipedia page for Photomaton, and after some searching, we came across a copy of the film. A beautiful, massive Photomaton makes a few appearances during an early party scene in the film, overseen by a well-dressed young attendant.

Brian | 8:09 pm | History, Movies
September 18, 2011

It’s time for some more updates. This round is brought to you thanks completely to our contributors around the globe, without whom we’d be, well, a lot smaller and less well-informed. 

First, thanks to everyone who’s written to let us know about the upcoming photobooth exhibition in Switzerland next February. The show, titled “Derrière le rideau: l’esthétique du photomaton” (“Behind the Curtain: The Beauty of the Photobooth”), has veritably set the photobooth world on fire, if such a thing is possible. 

We’ve heard about the show, which will take place at the Musee de l’Elysee, a photography museum in Lausanne, from folks all over the world, artists and enthusiasts alike. From the sound of it, the show seems as though it will bring together an impressive collection of artwork as well as an examination of the history, the technology, and the cultural impact of the booth. We’re working on a contribution to the show, and I hope we’ll be able to attend at some point during its run, from February 17 to May 20, 2012.

Next up, we’ve got a number of updates on locations, including a couple of firsts. First off, our first photobooth listing in Ireland! If you’re planning a trip to the Emerald Isle, be sure to put Shebeen Chic, a restaurant, bar, and music venue in Dublin, on your itinerary. Ireland’s only photochemical photobooth will be waiting for you there. We’ve been hearing about this location for awhile, and thanks to Imogen for submitting photos and info for our directory.

Another first, here in the U.S.: our first location in state of Indiana. Thanks to Trent for letting us know about his booth at Albert Photographic in Chesterton, Indiana. Our Photobooth Directory has now reached the magical number of 30 states (plus Washington, D.C.), and we’re happy to see the list continue to grow. Send us an update or a new location if you’ve got one.

We also have some new listings in some established photobooth meccas: first, Portland, Oregon, home to two new locations, at Spirit of 77 and Beulahland. Thanks, Victoria!

And finally, we have two new locations in Los Angeles, at The Smell and at The One Eyed Gypsy, both downtown. Thanks, Emma and Raul!

We also heard from Dutch photographer Daniel Heikens this week about his new book (available here on of facial hair in the photobooth. He used the wonderful booth at the RayKo Photo Center in San Francisco to do his work. Thanks, Daniel.

Next up, we’ll be getting to some long-overdue updates to our Movies and TV section, thanks to tips from our watchful eyes around the world. For now, though, that’s all. Thanks again, everyone.

March 06, 2011

We were first introduced to Raynal Pellicer when we were contacted for input for an upcoming book about the photobooth. We provided answers to a few questions, and Tim offered some of his artwork, and, as often happens with these long-term projects, we sort of forgot about it for awhile. Eventually, late last year, we began hearing a growing buzz about an upcoming work in both French and English, with its own oft-updated Tumblr full of photobooth images. 

In January of 2011, Photomaton was published. Raynal was kind enough to have the publishers send us each a copy of the book in French, and we were excited to see not only our names and words (and in Tim’s case, his work) included, but more importantly, to see what a fine collection of photobooth history and art Raynal has put together. I haven’t yet gotten ahold of the English edition of the book, but based on the illustrations alone, the book is a real gem. Photobooth photos of all kinds, with unique backgrounds, inscriptions, and Photomatic frames; photobooth photos of artists, photographers, musicians, politicians; and photobooth-related promotional material and advertisements are all included in the book. Artists whose work we were already familiar with (Warhol, Vaccari, Costa, Rideal) is featured, as are works by artists we hadn’t yet come across, including Jose Mesa, Julie Brown Smith, and Giuseppe Colovati.

For both the photobooth enthusiast and anyone interested in the history of photography and art in general, we heartily recommend picking up a copy of this book; it’s a beautifully assembled volume, full of fascinating photos and history. 

January 25, 2011

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.

Brian | 8:45 am | History
December 10, 2010

starckbooth.jpgDesigner Philippe Starck has created a redesigned Photomaton for Photo-Me International dubbed the “Starbooth,” according to recent French press reports. And according to Photo-Me president Serge Crasniasnki, it’s an improvement on the previous look of the photobooth:

The photo booth has not changed for 50 years. This is very sexy. The others were very ugly.”

Though there’s nothing particularly offensive with Mr. Starck’s design, I think a number of us would argue that photobooth design in general has changed in the last fifty years, in a direction straight downhill, becoming less attractive and more boring and lifeless with each re-design.

Then again, Mr. Crasnianski used Claudia Schiffer as a reference to describe this new booth; with no disrespect to Ms. Schiffer, Mr. Crasniasnki might be a few decades behind the times to begin with.

See another photo here.

October 25, 2010

Kate Burt, writing for The Independent on Sunday, has written a nice piece on the current state of photobooths in the UK, and around the world, titled “Camera obscurer: Meet the enthusiasts that are determined to keep photo booths alive.” She was kind enough to contact us for the piece, and includes some of our thoughts on photochemical booths. Also featured are digital entrepreneurs The Mighty Booth and The Expressive Booth, as well as our fellow photochemical enthusiasts Carole and Siobhan of Photomovette, Alex of Photoautomat, and Steve “Mixup” Howard.

Burt provides a brief history of the booth as well as a look at the current state of the photochemical machine, attempting to survive in a digital world:

However, enthusiasts argue, digital booths just don’t have the same appeal. Tim Garrett, who, with his friend Brian Meacham, co-founded the appreciation site in the US, believes that “Digital ‘enhancing’ of the experience with cheesy voiceovers and graphics has taken away from the beautiful simplicity of the vintage booths.” The charm of the old-school booths, he continues, is “a special sauce of ingredients: the tiny precious images, beautifully lit and exposed; the instant gratification; the cramped space of the seating area that inspires intimate photos; the anticipation as you wait for the strip to pop out, unsure exactly how they will look; the pungent smell of the chemicals and the low whirr of the machine…” 

Thanks to Kate for a great piece, which you can also find archived on our site.

October 21, 2010

fontaine.jpgFor our readers in Italy and around Europe, we’d like to make note of an upcoming exhibition of photobooth photos in Viterbo, Italy (about 90km north of Rome) at the Studio Fontaine. The exhibition is called “4x20 Lasciare Asciugare” (which translates to “Let it dry”).

Gianmaria Ponzi, one of the co-founders of the gallery, got in touch to let me know about the show. His description follows:

Sabina Scapin and I have founded a gallery of contemporary art in viterbo. Sabina is a photographer and I am, above all, a collector of vintage photos, the blurry and unusual, and a researcher of photos. We like the photographic portrait and have thought that the true portraits of the common people are more interesting and authentic. We have thought about picking up photos from photobooths, but we have found problems in Italy, because they cannot be found in the markets. We have made announcements in newspapers but without any answer.

We’ve bought them on eBay, and gone to Brussels and Berlin where there are photo markets. We succeeded in borrowing some photos on loan from our friends who had preserved them.

The show that opens October 30, 2010 will display around 100 photobooth photos taken over the last 50 to 90 years, and are almost all in black and white.

Please let us know if you attend the show, and send photos so we can let everyone know what it was like. Thanks to Gianmaria for getting in touch with us.

October 18, 2010

Our friends at Photomovette are taking part in a great event this Friday: a celebration of the 100th anniversary of the introduction of the motion picture to the people of South East London. The New Cross Cinematograph Theatre opened October 22, 1910, in the same location where Photomovette have their black and white booth, an event and exhibition space called Utrophia.

We are very excited to be taking part in a very special event at Utrophia, home of our photobooth. The New Cross Cinematograph Theatre opened on the spot of Utrophia in 1910, providing the people of South East London their first look at moving image. It was officially opened by the Mayor of Greenwich and Deptford on 22 October 1910, and now, exactly a hundred years later, Utrophia are re-enacting the occasion with the creation of a portal that loops back to that time and space, charting the ensuing journey of how we captured and represented the light of life. Dress up, eat cake, marvel at light projections and document the process in true old-fashioned style in one of the only black and white booths in London!

For more on the event, see Photomovette and Utrophia.