The Photobooth

Photobooths aren't as abundant as they used to be. In the nooks and crannies of malls around Halifax there are a few sad, abandoned photobooths with permanent out-of-order signs taped up. Some of these have been replaced with newer digital models, where you can choose not only black and white or colour but you can choose fancy borders and sticker photos. 

Some history....

The first patent for a photobooth machine appeared in 1888 out of Baltimore but it wasn't until French inventor  T. E. Enjalbert showed it at the World Fair in 1889 that it started to gain notice. However, the photobooth as we know it appeared in 1923 from a patent by Josepho Anatol, a Russian immigrant who had moved to the U.S.A. Anatol was paid 1,000,000 for his machine and soon photobooths began popping up all over all over North America and Europe.

The appeal was evident. No photographer to please, customers could pose as they saw fit, becoming serious, flirty or goofy. It became something like a confessional, where people could reveal a side of themselves hidden in more public settings. At one point stores had to remove the curtains because people were revealing quite a bit more than was considered polite.

In the 60's, Andy Warhol admired the vernacular quality of the photobooth and started using it in his art. He would drag his subjects all around New York with handfuls of quarters to find the best photobooth. The photobooth had become known not only for it's utilitarian uses but for it's place in the art scene.

With stricter standards for passport photos in North America, photobooths aren't needed in airports or train stations like they once were. However, they are still a common sight all over Europe, and in Japan it has become very popular with teenagers to make photobooth stickers and buttons to trade with friends.

A tip: If you're hunting for a good ol' "dip n' dunk" photobooth I've heard that Halifax Shopping Centre is your best bet.

If you want to learn more about the history of photobooths there are several books published about the subject. Babette Hines' Photobooth (2003) is a exquisite visual history and American Photobooth by Nakki Goranin is a great read as well!