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I’m telling a wee fib about these photos. They were taken in March 1957, but they have always looked New Yearsy to me. There is a lot of love and youthful joie de vivre in the photos, don’t you think? I am quite envious of the young lady’s jacket with the Astrakhan wool collar. I have always wanted an Astrakhan coat!

I wonder if there is any significance to the fez style hat, given the crescent moon and eight pointed star decoration? Given the Groucho Marx style glasses and follicular accoutrements that accompany the hat, I doubt it has any serious connotations. And does our young man have a pierced ear?

Thanks for all the lovely welcome back comments from you all. I’m not yet up to doing very much blog reading just yet, please forgive me. I hope your new year has started well and continues that way as time passes.

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Germany, 1930s

This little lady in her hand knitted cardigan and skirt seems to be listening intently to instructions from outside the booth. At the time this photo was taken in the 1930s, booths were operated by a controller who would guide the sitter through a series of predetermined poses. So the person to whom she was listening, while most likely a parent, could also have been the operator.

I wonder if her rabbit was a festive gift? When I was little a stuffed rabbit for an Easter present would’ve been very welcome, as long as it also came with lots and lots of chocolate eggs, of course.

Easter is almost here. Yay! This is the second of three rabbit themed posts I’m doing to celebrate.

Germany 1930s

“Wave for daddy!”

This little boy is obviously feeling a bit overwhelmed by his encounter with a photobooth but is still relaxed enough to wave at the camera and  hold his toy gently. I guess it is possible that the wave was a precursor to a vocal plea to be let out of the strange box he had been deposited into, but I prefer to think that this was, overall, a positive experience for him.

I believe the bunny this lad is holding is made by Steiff, as it is just possible to see the trademark button in its left ear. It appears to be holding something in its paw but I cannot work out what it might be. I am also unable to find anything similar online, yet again! All ideas of what it is, are, as always, gratefully accepted.

Easter is coming, so this is the first of three rabbit themed posts I will be doing to celebrate.

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When I first saw this 1930s photobooth photo from Germany, I thought this young lady was holding a Mickey Mouse stuffed doll. Closer inspection revealed the toy to be a pug dog decorated with a tiny bell on its collar. At least I think it is a pug. I cannot find anything like it online, but if you Google “German 1930s vintage stuffed toy pug” the results are wonderfully amusing!

With her head tilted forward on an angle, it is hard to determine how old this girl might be. She appears to be a teenager as she is wearing earrings and a necklace.  I don’t believe that would have been the norm for a younger child of this era.  As well, her hands look to be those of an older child. Given the dog appears to be soiled around its muzzle, from lots of kisses and snuggles, I hope, I wonder if he is a relic of her childhood? Would she have deliberately set out with an old toy to get a photo taken with it? Against my theory that it is an older possession, is the fact that its paws are clean and unworn. Maybe it was new?

The pattern of her cardigan was recently, albeit briefly, back in fashion here in Australia. I’m not a great fan of this type of geometric knit, but the sitter wears it well. She obviously loves this toy. How wonderful that she is now able to share that love with us.

 
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Germany 1930s

Here we have a seriously unamused child with, what looks to be, a brand new dolly. Her furrowed brow reminds me of an expression a disapproving, elder relative might direct towards a naughty child. Yet there is a faint trace of a smile in her pursed lips. It is as though the experience of being photographed is eliciting an automatic gesture, that she is determined not to make. The doll is looking sanguinely towards her owner’s face, hoping she is not the object of the girl’s displeasure. The way the stripes of the girl’s top and the plaid of the doll’s dress tonally harmonise, visually emphasises an emotional joining of the two actor’s in this photographic vignette.

As with any other photobooth photos, there would have been multiple photos in this strip. The others might have shown a perky, carefree, smiling child. However, this photobooth photo is the one that survived out in a world of deceased estate auctions, flea markets and online collectibles websites. A rough and tumble world, where photos as small as this one often get jammed in the bottom of a box, bent and mangled by browsers or lumped into and forgotten in a large auction lot with more desirable photos. All this leads me to think that this child’s grumpy-face was not unique to this photo at all. She had her doll. She had her day out. She was tired and wanted to go home and she DIDN’T want her photo taken in a stupid photobooth.

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Above is teenage Jim Grey. Jim is from Down the Road, though not literally. That is the name of his blog where he writes about photography, cameras old and new, where he shares links to blog posts he has enjoyed in the previous week, and where he shares stories about his travels locally and around the world.

Some time ago he sent me scans of some photobooth images from a 1984 trip to Germany, and some other booth photos which he found when pulling out the first ones. It has taken me a lot longer than I intended, to share the scans with you.

So above is Jim in Germany. I think he looks like a young Clark Kent about to use the photobooth for his quick change into Superman. Yes, Superman does that! Well that is what he did in the Christopher Reeve movie of 1978. Besides, Jim just has to be Super as he likes photobooths, plus he went to the trouble of scanning his collection to send to me. Thanks Jim!

I will use Jim’s annotations to explain each strip.

Above – “Color shots of me in a photobooth in Krefeld, Germany, 20 July 1984 (I wrote the date on the back!) I had cut this strip apart, unfortunately, so I laid them on my scanner in order.”

I love the faces that Jim pulled, whilst keeping his shoulders and torso in virtually the same position throughout. These would make a great Gif! Below is Clark Kent/Superman in a booth.

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The Superman strip is a mock-up that is sold by Yourprops.com. I presume the copyright belongs to them. Thanks Yourprops!!

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Above – “More shots of me in another photobooth in Krefeld, Germany, also on the 20 July 1984. I held up a card and on the prints wrote “POLIZEI 503314 KREFELD” because I was trying for mug shots for a project I was doing. 503314 was the phone number of the family I was living with that summer. The last shot was of me wondering why the machine hadn’t taken the last shot yet.”

The deadly serious, authentic mugshot expressions in all these photos, are very cool. They are so serious that they have an unintentional comic edge to them.

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Above – “I was with some friends (Jim Ziegler and John Lodder) in Michigan City, Indiana, in the spring of 1985. We came upon a photobooth in a shopping mall. I think it cost a dollar. I had put in a maybe fifty cents when it started making images. Someone before me must have put in the rest of the dollar. That’s why this strip is what it is.”

And this is, so far, my favourite strip for the spontaneous, chaotic nature of each image. Jim has a very clear memory of how the chaos came about. It must have been a memorable day, with or without the photos.

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Above – ” Same place, same date, same people” as the previous photo strip. “This time my buddies and I were ready. I’m generally the one in the middle. John is the other bespectacled fellow. The other Jim is the one with no glasses.”

Unlike most modern, digital booths, you just never knew when the photos would be taken. Strange expressions, poor focus and lighting anomalies would abound, especially when three teenagers were let lose in one. I particularly like the third photo in this strip.

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And finally the polaroid, above. ” Right next to the traditional photobooth was a booth that took single Polaroid photographs for a dollar. So Jim, John, and I went in and hammed it up one more time. I have to say, this is the sharpest Polaroid photograph I’ve ever held in my hands.” I agree with Jim, and as a booth photo, it is very rare. As he says, the photo is sharp but also has a strong colour palette after all these years. It seems that this photo was meant for Jim to keep, as he certainly is the cheesy-grinned, star of the piece, as he is in most of this collection.

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Superman collecting his photos. I wish $0.75 photo booths still existed!

 

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From Germany. 1930s.

This gentleman has a touch of Oscar Wilde’s sartorial elegance. (See photo, below). The shirt he is wearing has a light grid pattern, possibly created by stitching on the fabric. His hat, hand-knotted bow-tie, stiff white shirt-collar and the velvet detail of his coat collar, speak of a man very aware of the image he wanted to project to the world. Like the photo in a previous post of a German gentleman of this era, he understands how to pose to convey style and class. The deep shadow cast by the brim of his hat gives him an air of gravitas and mystery. I think he is a thespian, so confident and calculated is his demeanour.

This photo is superb, as I look at it now. The tones are rich and defined. They are uninterrupted by the light flares and vertical lines you can see here.

I cannot tell you how disappointed I was to see the scan. I feel I need to apologise for the poor quality. I tried the photo on different resolutions, manually adjusted tint and brightness. I tried doing it sideways and upside-down in case there was a textured nap in the paper. I cleaned the photo with a soft cloth and delicate touch. I cleaned the scanner bed. Nothing helped. I also scanned another photo from 1930s Germany at the same time, with very good results.

Usually, when scanning photos of this era the resolution is astonishing, even when enlarged to two or three times the original size. But not for this photo and I cannot work out why. Perhaps it is just another secret of this man of mystery.

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Oscar Wilde by Napoleon Sarony

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