September 30, 2005

cbs_sunday_blog.jpgThis is a fairly old story, but one we had yet to cover here on On March 13, 2005, CBS News aired a segment about photobooths on their “Sunday Morning” show, featuring interviews with, among others, Babbette Hines, Brett Ratner, and Sonny Pham from Photo-Me. Host Bill Whitaker visited various photobooth locations in the Los Angeles area, and spoke with Ratner about his booth, his friends, and his book.

The online version of the story, titled “Fun and Freedom in the Photo Booth” is a transcription of the dialogue from the piece. Strangely, it did not appear online until July 31, 2005, for unknown reasons.

Host Charles Osgood and correspondent Bill Whitaker take a needlessly naive approach to the photobooth, with ‘aw shucks’ phrases like the opening line from the report: “Those cheesy, old photo booths from everybody’s past, you know, the ones from strip malls and bus stations? Those old things are making a comeback. Suddenly they’re trendy, they’re hot.” To their credit, though, the CBS team do manage to cover a number of recent appearances by photobooths in the mainstream media, and they talk to some key players in the recent resurgence of the booth. We also see many shots of people getting into and emerging from photobooths, one of which, after careful scrutiny, I’ve identified as the photobooth at Union Pool in Brooklyn.

Rightly or wrongly, Brett Ratner takes a lot of credit for the popularity of the photobooth — Whitaker tells him “Your idea is taking over the world” and he doesn’t argue — and he ends the piece with this bit of wisdom: “Nothing else could have afforded me the meaningful moments and more instant gratification than that simple, beaten up, magical booth” — the last line of the foreword to his book.

UPDATE: Contrary to the opening line of this entry, we had in fact covered this story before; Tim made a note of the fact that the story aired, but found no more than a quick sentence about the report on the CBS website. Three months later, a full story appeared online, and three months after that, I finally got around to mentioning it. All in good time.


  1. 1

    It takes cheesy to know cheesy.

  2. 2

    I think one of the worst parts is when Ratner says:

    Pat probably stole that idea from me,” Ratner says. “I don’t know if he was ever here, but i’m sure he’s very familiar with my booth. So, Pat owes me some money.”

    I think he was probably (partly) kidding, but still… In general I’ve found Ratner to be an egotistical man who takes credit where it is not due — that’s true in his film career, not just in the world of photobooth.

    That said, there’s some great photos in his book and I’m glad it was published.

    Personally I think there’s three potential explanations for the resurgence in popularity in the photobooth:

    1) There isn’t one at all. There are less booths than ever before. Sure, there are more in bars, but soon that’s the only place they’ll be.

    2) It was just the right time; retro & kitsch culture has always been in vogue, and the photobooth’s time simply came. People have always loved them, and no particular person can claim credit.

    3) Amelie.

    Personally I think it’s mostly 1 with a splash of 2 and a small dab of 3.

    (as always, thanks for the link. It’s actually pretty infuriating, but it’s interesting to see the media’s take on things)