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Found, Luna Park, 08/09/1996

Today is the first time since 1996 that I have attempted to reconstruct this strip. Initially, I didn’t recognise these fragments as belonging together. I am surprised at how differently the pieces have aged. A possible reason for the vastly different tones, could be that some were discoloured by other items that were in the bin where they were found. I cringe at the thought.

So what happened here? This young couple entered the booth and snuggled up, looking at the camera, smiling as each flash went off. They waited excitedly for the photos to drop into the shoot. While still wet, they looked at them together and he agreed that there was at least one wonderful shot of her, but none of him that he could admire. She liked them all despite the off kilter framing. They couldn’t agree to disagree. Within five minutes he’d torn up the strip and binned it.

Our young lady returned later to retrieve the cast off images that she’d liked, for the most part not bothering to collect the images of him. She was still in a huff about the destruction of an, albeit flawed, memento.

Found 15/10/1997

This set of photos was found at Flinders Street Station on the 15th of October 1997. I was on my way to meet my school friend, Francis Flanagan. We went to see the film Chasing Amy. I have absolutely no memory of that film, whatsoever.

So who is this young woman and why was this set of pics chucked on the ground? We’ll probably never know who she was/is, yet we can tell a number of things about her and the circumstances under which she took these pictures. She definitely had a poor comprehension of our littering laws, for a start. She is certainly a beautiful girl, who had a certain idea of how she should look in a portrait.

There is a smidgen of a sleeve showing in the top two images. This suggests to me, that she was not there to get a set of fun shots. If she had been, her demeanor would be quite different and the person standing beside her would, most likely, have joined in.

Could it be that she was actually using this booth to get passport photos?? An outrageous idea to someone who sees these automata cameras as toys. If that indeed was the purpose of this sitting, then this dirty set of pictures, with roller marks obscuring parts of the face, would have been unusable. Another reason they could have been discarded is that the four identical portraits option was not chosen.

Obviously, I love it when these photos don’t work and they are rejected for whatever reason. Unfortunately, with these dip and dunk machine all but gone, the unexpected find has become rarer and rarer.

Flinders Street Station, December 1997

I found this large-format, single-shot photobooth photo at Melbourne’s, Victorian era, railway station at Flinders Street. I haven’t seen a machine with the option of choosing a large portrait photo in the city for a long time, probably since the day I found this in 1997.

I’d say this example of a booth photo is the epitome of why we call small id photos mugshots. With his unsmiling face, maple leaf ear tattoo, piercing deep blue eyes and furrowed brow it could easily have been a police identification photo. In fact a friend of mine had no trouble believing this was a picture of a wanted man. Personally, I think he has a certain rugged charm, despite his solemn demeanor.

So why was this image torn and discarded? If he was a Canadian, as suggested by the maple leaf, he may have wanted a picture to send home. A friendlier expression might have been more desirable for that purpose. Or did he really just want four identical shots for a passport or other id? He would not have been the first to have pressed the wrong button.

Luna Park 08/09/1996

When living in London, as my fascination with the products of automatic photography grew, I started to collect discarded photobooth photos. I have many to share but thought I’d choose a random one from Melbourne, to start with.

There used to be two old black and white, “dip and dunk”, chemical photobooths at Luna Park, a very old amusement park in the bay-side Melbourne suburb of St Kilda. Living only a short tram trip away, it was easy for me to pop in on a regular basis. Entry to the park has always been free, so it never cost me anything to scrounge around the bins and behind the booths, looking for jettisoned photographic ephemera, whilst taking a few snaps of my own for posterity.

Some days I would find complete undamaged strips, other days a few remaining remnants. I find these torn photos, melancholic and charming in their beaten up, unloved state. One can see why this pic didn’t meet the sitters’ standards, with the blank, black, blob of doom above them. Yet, I can see merit in the one picture that worked, enough to have made me treasure it, if I had been one of the subjects.

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