The Shopworn Angel – 1928

photoboothHelen and ChristianFerroType Machine

The above film still from the 1928 film The Shopworn Angel, was sent to me by Les Matons, also known as the photobooth artists Hélène Fabre and Christian Bonifas from France.

I was very excited to receive this image, as it shows one of the earlier incarnations of an automatic photo machine. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, there had been many different attempts to make a reliable automated photo apparatus. However, no one truly succeeded until Anatol Josepho patented his fully automated Photomaton in 1925. By the time this film was made, the above booth was very old fashioned indeed, and quite ready to be consigned to the rubbish tip.

Unlike the type of photobooth pioneered by Josepho, which produce the familiar, paper, photobooth strip, this booth produced a single tintype photo.  Thanks to the impeccable research of Nakki Goranin in her book American Photobooth, I was able to find what I think is a tintype from this type of machine, or from a machine very like this one. (See below) The image did not scan or photograph well, so I included both, in the hope that you will get an idea of what this machine might have produced. This tintype photo measures approximately 45 mm (1 3/4″) in diameter and shows a young man wearing what is possibly a bowler hat. It is hard to be sure as the top part of the crown is obscured. This gentleman is well dressed in shirt and tie and very confident in front of the camera.

While this item doesn’t set my pulse racing, the way early paper-strip photos do, I am very happy to have this part of the photobooth story represented in my collection.

Postscript – Some trivia that appeals to me about  The Shopworn Angel, is that when it was nearing completion, The Jazz Singer (1927) was released. The excitement of this dawning of a new age of film, was such that it virtually ended silent-film making over night. In order to avoid probable box office failure, last minute dialogue was written for the stars Gary Cooper and Nancy Carroll and the final scenes were duly shot with sound. The last scene was a wedding and the only lines of dialogue spoken are Cooper’s, “I do,” and Carroll’s, “I do.” In addition, Carroll is heard singing the theme song.


    • Hi Cate. Looking more closely at the image, I can see why you’ve asked that question. It does look like the photo part has been cut out and placed in the circular frame. It is infact all one piece of metal. The liquid collodion would have been placed on the surface of the lipped, shallow dish before being placed into a light-proof holder inside the machine. Exposure to light to make the photograph and the fixing solution gives us the finished product.


  1. Amazing find, Kate! I didn’t know there ever was an automated way to make tintypes. So neat! The film may have been done in 1928, but it covers World War 1, so they most likely dusted off a “vintage” machine to use as prop!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, Les Matons told me that but I forgot to add it to the post. I think the actress is Nancy Carroll. I wasn’t previously familiar with that name.


      • He he. My memory is very poor. I DID have the names of the actors in the post but forgot that I added it as a post script at the very bottom, after the last image. No wonder no one saw it, if I couldn’t find it myself!


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