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Monthly Archives: February 2012

On my way to any doctor’s appointment, most of which are more than an hour’s drive from my home, I stop to rest and get a photobooth photo. Why not?  I need to rest for a while, even on these relatively short drives, due to having the neurological condition ME/CFS. The condition greatly limits what I am able to do in any one day and keeps me house bound most of the time. A half day out generally results in two or three days in bed to recover.

SO, why not analyse this photo in the context of my life at the moment, eh? Or let’s not. I found the “bars” on a walk with my pooch on a recently demolished house site. I saw some cool photobooth photos of people with faux bars and prison props that I thought I’d emulate. Stripes are a favourite of mine. Combine these factors and the result is this group of four images, simple as that.

But then again…

My favourite pic. I look like a cartoon character, somehow.

PS Although the image quality in digital prints is inferior to those from chemical booths, I like the flattening of the images and stark contrasts, especially when blown up.

Up until today, all of the Photomatic photos I have written about are from the USA. Photomatic booths were different to other photobooth machines, as they produced only one photograph, which was delivered to the sitter ready framed. Frames were made of cardboard and metal in various coloured finishes. Towards the end of their existence the frames were plastic.

In Australia, the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney believes that only one photomatic machine was imported into Australia and it is possible that it was never put into service. Finding an Australian photomatic example is extremely remote, therefore finding any photomatic that is not American, was quite exciting for me.

This picture of mother and son was taken in Scotland. The Scottish seller theorised that it may have been taken at the Empire Exhibition, in Scotland in 1938. The event was an international exposition held at Bellahouston Park in Glasgow, from May to December 1938. It showcased the best of Scotland’s industry and creativity, while also offering a chance to boost the country’s economy, which was recovering from the depression of the 1930s.

I find the atmosphere of this photo to be more restrained and demure than in most American images of the same period. The clothing is more conservative and the expressions of these two are more tentative and shy than the average North American sitter. It could be that these two are not typical of the British Isles. They are just two quiet people enjoying a day out. However to me it has a particularly British feel to it; friendly, homey and comfortably welcoming.

This blithe young man looks to me to be around 15 to 16 years old. Do you think it is one of the first times he was let off the leash by his parents?  The cheeky look on his face in both pictures, but particularly in the pose with the cigarette, suggests, YES!  Were these taken to impress a girlfriend, show off to his mates or as an accidental souvenir of his right of passage to adulthood? Whatever the case they were someone’s memento for many decades. Despite being faded, tarnished and stained, the photos radiate youthful joie de vivre some 74 years after they were taken. I can still feel his glee.

From what I have been able to discover, there were many Pennyland centres around the US and Canada offering a large selection of games and coin operated machines to amuse all ages. I think some were stand alone places but more generally they were part of a larger amusement park. The Pennyland where the above photos were taken has long since disappeared, as I can find no reference to it online. Any helpful information from out there would be most welcome!

Entrance to the Pennyland Arcade at the Glen Echo (Maryland) Amusement Park, 1928.

View of the Pennyland Arcade at 131 Royal Street, New Orleans. Date unknown.

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