American Photobooth

Boing Boing is truly "A Directory of Wonderful Things." Like American Photobooth, a new illustrated history of photobooths by photographer Nakki Goranin.

"Goranin doesn’t much care for the mall’s machine, which is digital—the print quality is not what it used to be. But, she says, there are only about 250 authentic chemical booths left in the United States…

Before the photobooth first appeared, in the 1920s, most portraits were made in studios. The new, inexpensive process made photography accessible to everyone. "For 25 cents people could go and get some memory of who they were, of a special occasion, of a first date, an anniversary, a graduation," Goranin says. "For many people, those were the only photos of themselves that they had."

Because there is no photographer to intimidate, photobooth subjects tend to be much less self-conscious. The result—a young boy embracing his mother or teenagers sneaking a first kiss—is often exceptionally intimate. "It’s like a theater that’s just you and the lens," Goranin says. "And you can be anyone you want to be."

I have lots of photos of my sweety and a particular fondness for these, taken in one of the pre-digital booths. She really doesn’t seem very self-conscious in these.

Many of my acquaintances are very good photographers. They have expensive equipment and take it seriously. I am way down on the other end of the spectrum. I take a lot of photos and don’t worry too much about the quality. I throw ’em up on flickr (and into iPhoto) and move on. Like high school typing class, I’ve opted for speed over accuracy. So the old photobooth appeals to me on that level.

PS: I could not guess the hours I have spent scanning photograph during the past ten years. Every so often I burn a CD and take it to the safe deposit box. Other than our pups and Barb, I can’t think of anything I value more. And I must add that the Mac –and iPhoto in particular– has made it possible to manage all my digital images. I keep about 1,700 on this MacBook and can find an image with a minimum of effort.

PPS: Speaking of photobooths… I’m told one of the most popular applications on the Mac is Photo Booth, loosely based on the original.

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