THE PHOTOBOOTH BLOG

Archive: History

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 Photobooth.net 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.

June 10, 2010

Last night saw the opening of an exhibition at the Fleming Museum at the University of Vermont called Picture Yourself: The Photobooth in America, 1926–2010. Nakki Goranin, author of American Photobooth, organized the show, and told us a little about what can be found there. The exhibit includes

…my working Auto-Photo 14 and my wooden 1934 handmade photobooth plus parts of a street photographer’s photobooth (circa 1930s)… Many vintage photos from my collections, an original handbook written by Anatol Josepho, one of his original lenses, etc.

We look forward to seeing photos from the event and hearing about how it went.

June 10, 2010

During the 2009 International Photobooth Convention, we screened a short documentary that takes the viewer on a 3-minute tour inside a photobooth as a photostrip is being developed. If you have ever wondered what is humming and whirring while you wait for your photo, wonder no more: we finally got around to uploading the short to YouTube. The video is in real-time, so you can see what happens at each stage of the development process. The video might have benefited from a musical score of some sort (a la Sesame Street), but opted instead for the natural sounds of the booth’s inner-dialogue.

May 21, 2010

Photobooths feature prominently the Seattle Art Museum’s new exhibition on the work of Andy Warhol titled “love fear pleasure lust pain glamour death–Andy Warhol Media Works.”

From the museum’s press release:

The exhibition begins with a group of Warhol’s photobooth strip portraits. These strips of images shot form an ordinary photobooth highlight the flux in personality of the artist’s subjects. Unlike a single-frame portrait, the photobooth strips capture change in movement and facial expressions throughout a series of connected images, revealing the sitter’s personality and creating a story of shifting moods or actions. For instance, in Edie Sedgwick (1965), the Factory superstar who Andy Warhol once said “could be anything you wanted her to be” strikes a series of coyly crafted poses that convey multiple moods, if not multiple identities. The photobooth strips on view in love fear pleasure lust pain glamour death include portraits of celebrities such as Ethel Scull and Gerard Malanga, as well as self-portraits by Warhol in which the artist explores his own personality shifts through a storyline of snapshots.

warhol_seattle.jpg

In addition to these works by Warhol, the museum has installed a photochemical booth for visitors to enjoy. Museumgoers are encouraged to take a strip of photos, cut off one photo, and leave it on the museum wall.

A Facebook page features photos of the wall of visitors’ photobooth pictures.

For a little more on the show, take a look at a Seattle Times review of the show and an article from The Spectator showing some visitors’ photos.

“Andy Warhol Photo Wall” from Seattle Art Museum on Facebook

May 02, 2010

ace_ny_2009.jpgIt’s hard to believe it’s been five years since we officially launched Photobooth.net, but the calendar doesn’t lie. It’s been an enjoyable and interesting five years, and today we’ll take a look back and see what has happened since we began.

About three months prior to the launch of the blog, in January, 2005, Tim contacted me, introduced himself, and asked about collaborating on a photobooth website, having seen a small collection of photobooth locations I had posted on my own site beginning in 2003. By the next month, we were up and running, collecting and presenting photobooth locations around the world, listing the films and TV shows that featured photobooths, and starting a catalog of artists, projects, and articles centered on photochemical photobooths.

As of February 2005, when we began putting the website together and the pre-cursor to the site was still on my old personal page, here’s what we had:

Take a look through those sections to see how we’ve grown over the years; counting booths that have come and gone since we listed them, we now have more than 350 photobooth locations listed, in a dozen countries around the world.

While the site had its origins in my attempt to visit every photobooth I could, our growth is due in large part to the generous contributions of photobooth fans around the world who have tipped us off, clued us in, and emailed photographs, scans, and information about booths we wouldn’t otherwise get to.

The same is true with the movies and TV shows we list; we now have more 100 movies listed and nearly as many TV shows, with more popping up every month.

Over the years, we’ve documented the two International Photobooth Conventions that have happened in the U.S. since we began, in 2005 in St Louis and 2009 in Chicago. In addition to being great events, these were opportunities to meet photobooth enthusiasts from around the world who have since become friends, including Anthony, Mixup, Danny, Nakki, Siobhan, Carole, Connie, Dina, and others.

The site has also been a way to communicate and collaborate with people we haven’t yet had the pleasure of meeting, but hope to one day, including Klaas, Martin, Ira, Marco, Ole, Meags, and Igor.

Looking back, it’s as though we created the site in the knowledge that everything was about to change. I don’t think that’s true, but the photobooth world was a different place in 2005. Photochemical booths could still be found at amusement parks around the country, they weren’t as ubiquitous in bars as they are today, and digital photobooths weren’t a wedding and party juggernaut like they are now.

And for a site that culls most of its information from the internet, it’s tough to overstate the effect that Apple’s “Photo Booth” application has had on the online world of photobooths over the last five years. The program, which was introduced in October of 2005, has now polluted every corner of the web, from Google Alerts, which are now only rarely reference actual photobooths, to the Flickr feed for photos tagged “photobooth.” The feed used to be a great source of information on new photobooth locations, as well as interesting vintage photobooth photos. For the last few years, though, it has become a dumping ground for kids to put up photos from the Apple Store, and a free way for digital photobooth companies to distribute their photos.

The last five years have brought a host of positive changes, as well. When we began our site, the last photochemical booths were being replaced with digital machines all across Europe. From the UK to Switzerland, Italy to Germany, the photochemical photobooth was a thing of the past. But slowly, bit by bit, in Berlin and Hamburg, Paris and London, Zurich and Moscow, we’ve watched the booths return. While the machines seem to be disappearing at an alarming rate in the United States, we’re heartened to see the great work done by the entrepreneurs, artists, and technicians (sometimes all the same person) to keep the booth alive in Europe.

Since the site began, we’ve added a section on Music and revamped our location listings to make them easier to navigate. You may also have noticed that our discussion board, once a thriving place to ask questions and share ideas (and then a cesspool of spam comments), is no longer active. We are in the process of restarting the board, and hope to have it up again soon, alongside a new section on the history of the booth, an improved gallery to share your photostrips, and a place to share technical manuals and instructions for operating and repairing photobooths.

We’re grateful to everyone who has contributed to the site over the last five years, as well as to those who have written in simply to tell us how much they’ve enjoyed it or found it useful. Thanks for reading, contributing, and helping keep the photobooth alive!