I Have an Addiction…to PHOTO BOOTHS!

Entry for Tuesday, 1/18/11
Subject: Inspiration & Creation


“Vision: It reaches beyond the thing that is, into the conception of what can be. Imagination gives you the picture. Vision gives you the impulse to make the picture your own.

 ~ Robert Collier, American author

I arrived to the Art Institute of Washington Arlington campus early on Tuesday, January 18, 2011, only to find out that my appointment was scheduled for the following week.  My IMD105A class was canceled because our instructor had prior obligations at our school’s Northern Virginia campus. My next class wasn’t until 2 p.m. What does one do with 3.5 hours of free time?

What to my wondering eyes should appear, on the 11th floor, of this building at the 11th hour of this day, during this century’s 11th year . . . NO, not a reindeer . . . but a photo booth! Thank you AIW Student Affairs! With some patience, a roll of duct tape, and a couple of computer reboots, the machine was up and running in about an hour. I wrote my name on the sign-in sheet and figured I would have about a 20-minute wait. 

1-2-3. Say Cheese! So what’s with my strange love affair with a rectangular box adorned with curtains (sometimes on both sides) and a (usually) uncomfortable chair on the inside? It’s simple: you have less than a minute to create, perform, and pose. The results of your activity takes seconds to document forever on a strip of 4 photographs, in traditional black & white or color. The first photo booth – known as the Photomaton machine – was built by a Siberian immigrant named Anatol Josephwitz in 1925, cost roughly $11,000 to manufacture, and debuted in midtown Manhattan. It’s been making memories on boardwalks and at movie theaters, bars, arcades, and malls ever since! It’s even become a wedding reception must-have for the hip bride and groom! 

Here are my photos. I cropped two out of the color strip (part of the allure – you can cut out individual pictures and mix, match, or share them with friends, family, etc.)

I have to admit it NEVER gets old. It’s become part of my ritual when I visit my friends in New York or when I head to the beach during the summertime. 

Want to learn more about the history of photo booths or maybe get inspiration for your future poses? You’re in luck! There are dozens of books on the topic but here are four I found to be the most comprehensive, informative, and entertaining. Raynal Pellicer published his book, “Photobooth: The Art of the Automatic Portrait” in December 2010.

Publisher: Abrams (December 1, 2010)

Näkki Goranin and David Haberstich published the much-lauded “American Photobooth” in February 2008. 

Publisher: W. W. Norton; 1 edition (February 18, 2008)

Below are two links regarding her book:

Finally, Babbette Hines collected photos and wrote the book “Photobooth,” which was released in September 2002.

Publisher: Princeton Architectural Press; 1 edition (September 1, 2002)

There’s even an international association for owners and operators of the Model 12 Photobooth!