Click! The History Of Photobooths

The photobooth postcard I received for my birthday

A photobooth at heart (and in design and function) is a vending machine, all be it a very special one. We certainly love them here in the UK, we have three to four times as many then the whole of America does. You can use them to get your passport or transit pass photo done but most of us use them out of the sheer joy of cramming into a booth with your friends/lover/self and getting a bit silly.

The first automated photo machines appeared in 1889 but they were not stand alone booths. The first modern machine, the way we think of them now, appeared on Broadway in New York City in 1925. The invention of Anatol Josepho, a Russian immigrant.

Anatol Josepho inside his ‘Photomaton’

He called the machines ‘Photomaton’ and charged 25 cents for 8 photographs. In the first six months after the booth was erected, it was used 280,000 times. Just 2 years later Josepho sold the rights to his Photomaton machines and they began to appear all over the world. For a more in-depth look at the life of Anatol Josepho check out this excellent Telegraph article.

Marilyn Monroe posing in a photobooth for Richard Avedon and James Dean at 18 years old in some personal photobooth snaps.

Amazingly despite the invention of digital cameras people have never gotten over the photobooth fascination. Andy Warhol had a Auto-Photo at the Factory and some prisons use photobooths for prisoners to take pictures with their visiting families. Photobooth are so special prehaps because there are no negatives, the experience can not be printed over and over again. It’s a one time event. I remember very clearly as a teenager going to photobooths with friends then carefully cutting up the strips and decided who got which one. I always had photobooth shots in my wallet.

Some of my favourite images from the Vintage Photobooth Tumblr

People collect old photobooth images too. Vintage Photobooth is an amazing Tumblr that you can spend hours on. Flickr boast a Vintage Photobooth Group too. Of course I’ve got my own collection starting too…


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