The Beauty of Vintage Photobooths
|From an original photobooth manual|
|A vintage photobooth picture, c. 1950s|
The booth has three main components: electronic, mechanical, and photographic. The electronics control the firing signals that tell the mechanical components to start, which then activates a series of movements through gears and switches that takes four pictures on a strip of paper and carries it through 14 tubs of chemicals. Because of the repetitive action of the developing process, the photobooths have earned the nickname “dip-and-dunk” machines. It truly is a marvel of turn-of-the-century inventiveness. An entire photography studio, complete with strobe lights and developing darkroom, is crammed into a metal box and electrified. I remember the Frankenstein feeling I had after completing an overhaul on a decrepit photobooth. After many hours of trial and error, and endless tweaking and retro-fitting, you hit the switch and four minutes later a little strip of paper spits out with your smiling face on it. It’s alive!!
|L: The delivery unit inside a booth, R: The camera inside a booth|
|Tanks inside a photobooth|
|Conceptualization in the photobooth|
|Fun in the photobooth|
For a more in-depth look at the history of photobooths, I recommend checking out Nakki Goranin’s great book, American Photobooth.
Contributor Bio: Russ Goeken is a Savannah-based photographer and collector who manages a handful of cranky dip-and-dunk machines for location and rental use.
Obscura Photoworks (you can rent a booth here)
Russ Goeken Photography