Photoweigh Photobooth At The Palace Pier, Brighton – A Guest Post by David Simkin of Sussex PhotoHistory
The now extinct Photoweigh photobooth machine took a photograph of the customer as he or she sat on a weighing machine. Photoweigh photos are rare enough, but even more so the one from my collection above, as it includes the “negative” and a branded folder.
It is very difficult to find information about Photoweigh machines. I approached UK based photo collector and writer, David Simkin for more information, after finding his online article Automatic Portrait Photographs in which he mentioned the machines. His website Sussex PhotoHistory is designed to be used by people researching their family history, who wish to date family photographs and also for those interested in the history of photography.I highly recommend a visit.
David kindly did this guest post for me –
I am working on the assumption that a Photoweigh machine was installed on or near Brighton’s Palace Pier, (England) sometime in the early or mid 1930s.
HISTORICAL BACKGROUND AND CONTEXT
Anatol Josepho, the inventor of the first automated photobooth, opened his “Photomaton Studio” in New York City in September 1925. In March 1927, Josepho sold the rights of the Photomaton process to Henry Morgenthau’s business consortium.
By the end of 1927, a British investor group purchased rights to distribute the Photomaton in Europe and Canada.
In 1928, Josepho sold the European rights for the Photomaton to an English/French consortium.
The Photomaton Parent Corporation Limited was set up by Clarence Hatry in 1928 to operate automated photograph machines in hundreds of public places such as railway stations and amusement parks.
I presume that by 1930, the novelty of the coin-operated photobooth had waned and that entrepreneurs were looking for a novelty or gimmicky variation on the self-operated portrait photo booth. Someone came up with the idea of a “Photoweigh” machine, a piece of apparatus, which took a photographic portrait of a customer as he or she sat on a weighing machine. The resulting photo strip would give details of the weight of the sitter as well as displaying the usual photographic portrait.
The earliest evidence I have found of an apparatus in England that took a small photographic portrait, while recording the weight of the sitter, is a photo of a bespectacled man wearing a trilby hat, with a tobacco pipe clamped between his lips. According to the printed display, the photograph was taken on 29th October 1931 at Selfridges Department Store, London. The photobooth photo (below) was sold on eBay in May 2014 for £10.50, (US $17.85). This early example does not carry the trademark of Photoweigh Limited.
Photoweigh Ltd. is mentioned as a recently established business in the 1933 edition of the British Journal of Photography. A firm called the American Automatic Photoweigh Company Inc. was listed in the American State of Delaware in 1934.
The 1933 edition (Volume 80) of the British Journal of Photography lists Photoweigh Limited as a recently registered company (viz. ” Photoweigh. Ltd. (276,512). — Private company. Registered June 1. Capital, £5,000, in 4,000 5% redeemable non-cumulative preference shares of £1, and 20,000 ordinary shares of 1s. each. Objects: to carry on the business of manufacturers and dealers in optical, scientific, photographic and industrial instruments, cinematograph and other films, projectors, cameras and magic lanterns, etc.”).
Presumably, Photoweigh Ltd. set up a booth near or on Brighton’s Palace Pier between June 1933 and 1938.
In his 1938 novel “Brighton Rock“, the writer Graham Green mentions the Photoweigh kiosk being located in the tunnel under the Palace Pier in “the noisiest, lowest, cheapest section of Brighton’s amusements”.
A Photoweigh booth (owned in the 1960s and early 1970s by George Keeble) was situated on Brighton’s Palace Pier until 1972.
I very recently received a Photoweigh photo from Clifford Groves of Brighton. (Above) The photograph was taken in 1964. Cliff Groves explained the circumstances in which it was taken. ”I am the good looking one on the right, the other chap is Gil Tipping – a good friend of mine still after 50 years. We were both working the summer season on the Palace Pier, in the “Palace of Fun”. There were no gaming machines only what we called “gaffs”. These were very similar to fairground stalls. Gil was running a bingo stall and I was on air rifles. The mods and rockers were creating havoc on the seafront the day the smudge (photo) was taken and it was (as the Chinese say) an interesting time – battles galore!
Once again, here is the Sussex PhotoHistory link. Please explore this wonderful photographic resource.
Never heard of the photo-weigh booth. Good idea, but not so popular today I suppose! Back then, there wasn’t a fast food joint on every corner either I am sure. The linked website has lots of fascinating information. Hope you are well!
Not so well at the moment but determined to keep bloggin’. Glad you visited the link. I’ll let David know.
How stressful! To be weighed and have my picture taken at the same time? No thanks! Never heard of this before 🙂
I found out about them through the book Photobooth by Raynal Pellicer. The machines were very rare and only appear to have been used in the UK and Europe, as far as I’ve been able to discover.
I haven’t heard of the photoweight booths, but then I’m only a novice on this mode of photographic expression. Nice that you have the negative and folder too… did a lot of photo booths give negatives? I find it interesting that the photo taken at Selfridge’s shows the weight in stones and pounds. The guy in that booth looks like Bob Balaban, the actor. John is right… they would not be popular at all nowadays. Nice report by Sussex.
I don’t think many booths gave negatives although you do see paper negs for sale on Ebay, that may or may not be booth photos.
I can see the resemblance to Bob Balaban. Another time travelling celebrity for Tattered and Lost’s blog, hmm?
Thanks for all the positive comments Ted!
Thanks for telling about this, Katherine. I hadn’t seen it, and it adds enormously to what little I knew of the Photoweigh story. David is a font of photohistorical background stories, and most generous too.
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Yes, I agree. He is wonderfully knowledgeable and helpful.
CAN ANYONE KINDLY PROVIDE ME WITH CONTACT INFORMATION FOR DAVID SIMPKIN, SUSSEX? I have something that he might find very interesting. I recently found an 1824 miniature water color portrait of a woman by Edgar Adolphe. Most interesting when opened it had the original 1824 Adolphe label– a beautiful pink engraving that includes an elaborate poem on portraiture. I think this is something that Mr Simpkin would find interesting I am happy to forward photos for his data base on Sussex portraiture.
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Hi there. That sounds exciting! David can be contacted through this link http://www.photohistory-sussex.co.uk
His email address is in the yellow box towards the end of this page.
I have a photograph of my great aunt which was taken at the photoweigh booth at Brighton pier
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What a wonderful thing to have. I rarely have names for the people in my photos.
This is so interesting! My dad had a photo in this booth 🙂
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Yes, it is such an interesting story. Glad you found it. Do you or your dad still have the photo?
I have a family photo from Brighton with “photo weigh LTD Brighton palace pier” writen at the top and at the bottom is writen-“why not have it enlarged?”
From the 60’s
Does anyone know how much it would have cost for this individual photo at the time?
Me again, hi.
Just some info that some of you may find interesting that I just saw on my family photo from the 1960’s (photoweigh LTD photo booth at Brighton palace pier) that I’m restoring.
Three of them squeezed in and on my grandads shoulder was the booths entrance curtain clearly visible.
So from this I can tell you that as you entered the booth the camera was to your right and the seat was to your left.
Nothing spectacular but if like in my photo you see something on the left of the image that you can’t tell what it is then its possible its the same curtain getting in on the action (if its the same booth that is)