Before the i-phone and “selfies”, there was the photobooth—the forerunner of instant photography. Baby Boomers will remember sitting in the photobooth , primping, making faces, squeezing in friends. But, surprisingly, it is Millennial who are rediscovering the fun of the Photobooth. Invented by Siberian émigré, Anatol Josepho and first introduced in 1925, the photobooth is enjoying renewed popularity. Today, they’re a “must” for wedding receptions and would you believe - even made an appearance at the Academy Awards and the Emmys!
At the upcoming Brooklyn Antiquarian Book Fair, Sept. 8 & 9 at the Brooklyn Expo Center in Greenpoint, the fascination of the photobooth will be explored in both a one-of-a-kind exhibit and talk by film and dark room photographer Nakki Goranin. The author of the American Photobooth, published by W.W. Norton and Co., and a long-time collector of fascinating photobooth images, Ms. Goranin will present her talk ,” The Photobooth: A Short History and Conversation about a Photographic Revolution,” on Saturday, Sept. 8th at 4:00 pm. At the same time, show goers won’t want to miss the photobooth exhibit she has created especially for this Fair. It features a dozen blow-ups of her own work, including both photobooth and tintype art.
Ms. Goranin, whose interest in photography started in childhood, spends hours at the computer, taking small vintage photos, not much larger than a quarter, enlarging them, playing with the tones and transforming them. What was a vernacular shot becomes fine art. “What is so wonderful about the photobooth was the changing world it represented, and the fact that it made photography available to everyone,” notes Ms. Goranin.
As many as 7,500 people a day would line up to have their photos taken for 25 cents in Josepho’s Photomaton Studio on Broadway in the 1920s. The 1953 film The Band Wagon saw Fred Astaire dancing into and out of a Photomatic booth. Four years later, Esquire magazine lugged an art deco photobooth into Richard Avedon’s NYC studio for a stunning photo essay that included images of Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, Truman Capote and Ethel Merman. Andy Warhol became fascinated with photobooth images in the 1960s, envisioning the color and sense of movement the artist could achieve by combining a variety of poses from the booth.
“I think about the people in the Photobooth,” adds Ms. Goranin, “who they were on that day, the time in which they lived. My favorite photobooth images are the most tender ones -- couples shyly kissing for the first time; images in which you can see genuine affection between people, as well as portraits that show humor, such as a blowup of three ‘wise guys’ - young men puffing on their cigars. I love each photo. I fall in love with the people in them. I strive to convey this feeling to the viewer.”
Ms. Goranin’s exhibit will also feature tintypes - a wet-plate process whereby a photograph is taken as a positive and applied on a thin tin plate. An outstanding example is a photographic panorama of the Chicago Exhibition of 1893, which Ms. Goranin created from two separate images she purchased twenty years apart -- two of the few tintypes to survive from the Exhibition. Admission to the talk is free with online registration and purchase of a Fair ticket.
Image: This vintage Photobooth image from Nakki Goranin’s exhibit at the Brooklyn Antiquarian Book Fair came from the Midwest and was probably made in the era of the great farming migration and the dust bowl days. Most likely they were farmboys in town for a Saturday adventure, getting their photo taken in a Photobooth for a quarter. Ms. Goranin, author of American Photobooth, will also offer a special talk on The Photobooth and its Revival of Memories at the fair on Saturday, September 8th, at 4 pm.