Guided Poses


This lovely strip of four photobooth photos was taken in the USA, probably around the mid to late 1950s. This strip was a gift from my blogging friend Ted. (Thanks Ted!!) For the past twelve months there have been a lot of photos, which appear to come from this same booth, for sale on Ebay.

Not only is this child photogenic but she is at ease in front of the camera. She has chosen her poses well, including a different one for each image. Or has she chosen them?

When photobooths were first introduced to the world, they were installed in photographic studios that offered a variety of add-on services. These included hand-colouring, enlargements, duplications and framing. The booths were operated by a controller who would guide the sitter through a series of predetermined poses.

By the time these photos were taken, photobooths were mostly automatic, coin operated and situated in department stores, bus and train stations or other places with a good flow of foot traffic. In the photos for sale, which I mentioned above, poses like the ones in this strip are replicated over and over again. They are rarely in a complete series like these, (Thanks again Ted!!) but the frequency of the same poses and their formal style suggests that this booth was still being controlled by an operator in the 1950s.

So where would those operator controlled booths have been? They would have been owner operated and peripatetic. Like the photobooth owned by my photobooth clown, Yo Yo, they would have been at circuses or fairs. They might also have been at special social events such as school proms, adult dances or even fundraisers. So, with her casual shirt and relaxed demeanour I would be very happy to guess that this young lady had her photobooth experience on a day out at a travelling carnival or fun fair.

I have some other photos that might have come from the same or a similar type of booth. I will share them with you soon and you will see further evidence of my theories in the poses and costumes of the sitters.

  1. Thanks for your likes… Please follow me. . I started blogging two years ago. Im just finding out how blogging works. Smh… 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Really interesting; I’d never heard anything about operators but all my experiences were in the department store variety. Seems the history of the photobooth has been a neglected niche in photography history.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Quinn, and the third one (which is somewhat disturbing for a child of that age to be using) is the pose that is in so many of the photos for sale online, that appear to be from the same booth!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. You are welcome, Katherine. I loved the little girl when I saw it and thought you would like it. Oh silly me, what photo booth pic would you not like? But you know what I mean.

    Interesting about the booths being run by an operator. I’m trying to remember back to the California State Fair in the 5os. Looks like in the first photo she is listening to the operator, or her mom, and the flash went off… then came the poses. She is quite at ease and the camera loves her.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, I can see that in the first photo, now you mention it. She has a very soulful and wise face for her age, which the camera picks up on. Thanks again, Ted. She is wonderful!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. roberta m said:

    Great strip–such a cutie. Love that last pose–very adult-like!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Roberta, she has something about her that says wise beyond her years. And yes, the posing is very adult-like. Thanks for commenting!


  5. elmediat said:

    Fascinating background. Demonstrates that there is a difference between the snapshot and a photograph composition. Much like how the recent explosion in cameras has produced millions of camera users, but not millions of photographers ( you could substitute pens & poets, keyboards & authors ). 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. People always try to imitate the poses that are “cool” at the moment.
    The “artistic” selfies of nowadays are a good proof of this.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Glad you put “artistic” in inverted commas. Most of the ones I’ve seen are way less than artistic, which I’m guessing is your point Marcelo!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Fascinating. So the controller who assist with the pose then take the photo?

    “For the past twelve months there have been a lot of photos, which appear to come from this same booth,” How is this possible, assuming each subject took their photos away with them? Were duplicate photos created by the controllers?

    Liked by 1 person

    • That is a very interesting question and one that puzzles me, also. There is one man who appears in many of the pictures (spread over numerous sellers) that may shed light on the story. My theory is that he was the owner of the booth and that he took two strips of each sitter or group of sitters, offering the best one, or the one most liked for a certain price, with the option to buy the second one for a small additional fee. In cases where the second photo strip was not bought, he kept the copy for his own collection. I imagine that whoever sold them on, divided the strips into lots which were auctioned and won by different bidders. The large lots may possibly have been auctioned separately on different dates, too. That is my best guess.


    • I read your article about the images of poverty used to elicit sympathy and donations from the developed world. Will you be adding to your blog? It is a wonderful idea to analyse the way we are manipulated by images in the blog format.


  8. Lovely girl with such sophisticated poses for one so young! You would’ve made an excellent detective with all your theories. Do you prefer Katherine or Kate?

    Liked by 1 person

Please leave a comment. I'd love to hear from you.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: