Monthly Archives: December 2011

For my friend Rick’s birthday, I used this same booth photo to create a personalised greeting card to send him my best wishes.  I learned quite a bit during that exercise, so decided to once again have a bit of digital manipulation fun using only Preview and the limited tools it offers.

Wishing everyone a very happy holiday season. See you again in the new year.


I have had my dingo-labrador cross, Snowy Moriarty, for 6 and a half years but have only recently taken him for his first photobooth shoot. When I was a puppy raiser for the Guide Dog Association, it was much easier to slip into a booth with a pup, as they were allowed into any store or shopping complex. Smuggling a 30 kilogram dog into a forbidden area takes some guts and determination!

One has to admit posing for a camera, in a confined space, with frequent whispered admonitions to “be quiet”, “sit still” and “cooperate!” is not a dog’s favourite pass-time.

Having bravely suffered the experience in two old chemical booths, Snowy said he would not do it again unless I could find a booth that was working properly. Everyone’s a critic!! On our way home we stopped at a digital machine. He was much happier with those results!

Meet Mike Fiveson and his family. I have never met Mr Fiveson but I think I would like him very much. He replies with care and frankness to all the comments made on his blog. He answers emails, makes kind offers and fulfills his promises.

These photos represent a snapshot of Mike’s life from the early 1970s to mid 1980s. He is pictured with his wife, Judy and son, Matt. Fabulously, in January, Judy and Mike will be celebrating 41 years of married life.

Mike has a heartfelt and sometimes very touching blog. Located in the USA he tells tales of his daily life and travels, his past and present.  A mutual interest in photography helped to spark our friendship. How I love the internet!

Mike writes, “There is one  picture of me in 1972 when, after serving in the navy for 4 years, I grew my hair some. The strip with Matt was taken in maybe 1984 because he looks to be about 5 or 6. The ones with just Judy and I go back to the 70’s, before Matt was born.”

One member of Mike’s family is missing from these photobooth souvenirs. One day, I hope a certain Golden Retriever named Pumpkin will sneak into a booth, email me some scans and complete the story!

Check out Mike’s blog here.

Photobooths were invented by Anatol Josepho in 1925.  They were an immediate success in his adopted home of New York City. When he sold the invention in 1927 it rapidly spread across the USA and the world.  As early as 1929 advertisements like these were appearing in many newspapers around Australia. It is a surprise to me that the Photomaton company found its way here so quickly.

In the 1970s it took more than two years to get Doctor Who episodes to Oz, yet in the 1920s, this lumbering hunk of technology arrived in faster time. And faster time is what this machine promises. Six perfect portraits, six different poses, in six minutes.  In the days when most photographers were struggling to get photos back to clients within one week, to wait only six minutes was nothing short of miraculous.

“If you are one of those people who do not take a good photograph, try the Photomaton way. They are natural and lifelike and they do not fade.” I can attest to that. Having numerous photobooth examples from the 20s and 30s which have lasted better than family photos from the 1980s, this was no idle boast.

This advertisement, for booths at two Woolworths stores in Brisbane, was published in the Brisbane Courier, on the 9th of October 1929.

My apologies for the poor quality of the image, which was taken directly from the Trove online resources website, of the Australian National Library.

This photomatic photobooth picture was offered for sale as an “old chauffeur’s badge” identity photo. It was said to be for a driver who “had to have their photo in their bus”.

Firstly it is not a badge. Like most photomatic photos there is a pop-out cardboard stand on the back, no pin. Hmm. Are bus drivers actually referred to as chauffeurs? Is this a bus driver’s uniform or a chauffeur’s uniform? Is it really a form of identification without a name or any other details attached?

Sure, the wear and tear suggests this picture may have been on display somewhere for an extended period, but there are many other explanations, other than the one proposed by the vendor. I have seen the same wear and tear on photos of lovers, rakes and dolly birds, pictures unlikely to have been used as ID.

This could have been a simple love token, made by a happy man for his lady.  Maybe it was a spur of the moment purchase. Was it made when a booth presented itself unexpectedly, on taking a different route home one evening?  Maybe it was a planned gift presented with a bunch of flowers?  Or could it simply have been a personal souvenir to celebrate a first or last day at work? Whatever the case, given its condition, it was proudly displayed somewhere.

As with most of my photos, I’d say the circumstances behind this picture will remain unknown. The photo is thin, there is rust on the frame, the surface is battered, faded and dull. Yet one thing radiates as brightly as on the day it was taken – a glorious, broad-mouthed smile. I love it!

One of the things I love about collecting photobooth photos, is the myriad possibilities that arise for discovering new and fun things. This image shows a woman wearing a badge that, a quick online search has confirmed, represents the face of a very famous wooden dummy.

Edgar John Bergen was an American actor and radio performer, best known as a ventriloquist. At the peak of his fame he was probably the best known practitioner of his craft in the world. His success was undoubtedly the result of a partnership with a character he created, with the help of a carved block of pine, named Charlie McCarthy. This character was so endearing and believable that the pair conquered vaudeville, movies and the airwaves across America from the 1930s to the 1960s.

This photo has another interest for me. With each woman wearing similar blouses and hairstyles, the parts in their hair on opposite sides, one can imagine it is one woman leaning on a mirror, which eerily reflects how she will look in 20 years time.  The photobooth has become a time machine. Inscribed on the back of the photo in pencil are the words “Left to right, Mrs Polichuk & a friend of Mrs P.

Edgar and Charlie

Badges similar to the one worn above.

Believe it or not there are many books out there that discuss photobooth photos, machines and photobooth art. Generally they are surveys of that genre of photography, covering the work or collections of numerous people in one volume. Occasionally they’re a record of photos made at an event or from a specific installation of a machine in a public place. It is quite unusual to find a monograph of photobooth photos, showcasing a series of works by one artist. The PhotoboothFacial Hair by Dutch photographer, Daniel Heikens is one such book.

These days, it is within the hands of anyone to produce their own publication. The marvellous medium of online book publishing, at sites such as Blurb and Lulu, can be a great tool in skilled hands. Through the experience of having bought a few of these self-published works, I can tell you it is very much an exercise in trust.  You cannot tell who has skilled hands until you’ve done your cash. One can never be sure what will be inside, when that little brown package is delivered.

Daniel published his work through Blurb, so I was apprehensive about what I’d be getting when I placed my order. However, I was very pleasantly surprised when my copy of the book arrived. The high quality production is short, at just 24 pages, but satisfying in its varied mix of documentary and creative photos.

The real Daniel?

In trying to discover more about the techniques he used to get the atmospheric and varied pictures in the book, I wrote to him for some more information. He told me that he did not manipulate a thing. “The strange artifacts you see in some of the shots are just some malfunctions of the machine… Old developer, and even some polarisation sometimes. The machine must have a light leak somewhere during the developing process.”

The modest statement at the front of the book, that it documents the growth of his facial hair over three weeks “That’s really all I want to show“, belies the complexity of some of the images, whether deliberate or not. Despite these ostensibly being photographs of the same individual, Daniel has created different characters through the use of props and poses. These “personalities” are enhanced by multiple ambiances created through the serendipity of the photobooth process.

From a windswept fisherman, a chilling Ku Klux Klan’s man, and a jazz dude, to pictures reminiscent of old police mug shots, the characters cascade from the pages. Sometimes we spot the real Daniel, gazing serenely at us. Then there are the Daniel-less, painterly strips, where one could imagine Rothko having had a hand, if it were not for the knowledge that each frame was a product of a camera.

And throughout the works Daniel’s moustache and beard grow luxuriantly. I wonder if this book could be used as a fundraiser for the mighty month of Movember? *

Living and working in the Netherlands, Daniel created this series in the booth at the RayKo Photo Center in San Francisco, while holidaying in California.

You can see more of the book and Daniel’s other works here.

A Boohbah!

Mug Shot - Prisoner 15122011

*NB Movember is an annual, originally antipodean, month-long event involving the growing of moustaches, (known colloquially in Australia as a “mo”), during the month of November. The Movember Foundation charity runs events to raise awareness and funds for men’s health issues, such as prostate cancer and depression.

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