Sam Padilla and Violeta Tayeh strike a spirited pose inside a photo booth during an international convention of photo booth enthusiasts in Chicago. Photo: David Pierini/Cult of Mac
Anatol Josephwitz passed the time in a Siberian prison camp and ignored the bitter cold by imagining an automated photography machine he had not yet invented.
Nearly 95 years later, the photo booth is as tough a survivor as its inventor.
Photo booth adventurers across many generations have described a magic that takes place when the curtain is drawn and the camera is awakened by placing a few coins in a slot. Inhibitions fall and an authentic inner self emerges on a strip of four photos. Best friends smash their faces together, a girl on a boy’s lap gives him his first kiss, and a wide-eyed college kid proudly mugs for a shot that will get pasted into a first passport.
Many of the so-called dip-and-dunk chemical machines, the kind found in arcades, amusement parks and bus stations, are disappearing, but replacing them are booths with digital cameras and dye-sublimation printers.
Montreal artist Meags Fitzgerald turns intimate photo-booth pictures into short films.
Before anyone ever uttered the word “selfie,” Meags Fitzgerald had accumulated thousands of photos of herself taken in photo booths in the malls and train stations near her home.
She produced strips of four one-of-a-kind poses almost daily, sometimes hiding in a mall photo booth until after close. High-school friends dubbed her “the Photo Booth Girl.” Today, when the Montreal artist pulls the curtain in a booth, the flashes sometimes don’t stop until she has enough photos to produce a movie.
“It’s very much an obscure labor of love,” said Fitzgerald, a freelance illustrator who has produced six film shorts, all in photo booths. “There are certainly people who have used photo booths in their mediums but I’m the only one I know who has used them in this way, in this length or with the narrative purpose I’ve tried.”