mark bloch photobooth photo

mark bloch photobooth photo
mark bloch photobooth photo
mark bloch photobooth photo

mark bloch photobooth photo
mark bloch photobooth photo
mark bloch photobooth photo
mark bloch photobooth photo
mark bloch photobooth photo
mark bloch photobooth photo
mark bloch photobooth photo
mark bloch photobooth photo

Behind the Curtain:
A History of the Photobooth
by Mark Bloch


Ironically, until the Internet came along and dozens of Web sites authoritatively began shouting the phrase, I can find no product or company in world history ever called a “photobooth” by name. Yet that is precisely what I and others of my generation have always called them, those clunky contraptions that could also be called the world’s first do-it-yourself art-making devices.


This history of the photobooth can be divided into three sections. The first period, up to the mid-1920s, includes many different innovations and concepts in both mechanics and photography that laid the groundwork for the photobooth as we know it today. These innovators, including many in France, are the true fathers of the genre.


The second chunk of history revolves around a specific person, Anatol Marco Josepho and his Photomaton. Josepho is often credited as the father of the Photobooth because he solved so many of the issues surrounding its popularization and got paid a million dollars to do so. The middle history, which was centered in New York and lasted through World War II, centers on him, his invention and the New York City company he created to promote it as well as the Mutoscope Company that eventually bought his patent. This period also spawned many imitators.


The third and final period sums up how this simple and charming device and/or concept could spread around the world and become known as the “photobooth” that we all take for granted today. This third period moved the center of gravity to Southern California and then back to Europe where it began, and then finally around the world to an international audience still eager to embrace it. After that third section, a very brief survey of photobooth art subjects concludes this history.


Photobooth History also has a history. Artists from the Surrealists to Andy Warhol to mail artists[1] have loved the device and two photobooth artists deserve special credit. Bern Boyle (1951-1992) curated the “Photomaton” show at the Pyramid Arts Center in Rochester, NY (11/20/87 - 1/2/88) and his book that accompanied it was the first compilation of photobooth history. Boyle was also the founder of the San Francisco Gay Film Festival, now called Frameline, in 1976 and a founder of the nation's oldest LGBT bookstore in Philadelphia. I knew him as a mail artist who lived down the street from Carlo Pittore’s Galleria Della Occhio on East 10th Street here in Manhattan in the '80s. Bern was an excellent photographer who took amazing pictures of road kill, which may or may not have begun when he was diagnosed with AIDS. His photobooth work was directly related to that diagnosis which eventually took his life. He wrote in his catalog,[2] “Beginning on New Year's Day, 1986, I began a year-long project of making at least one photo booth picture each day… Living in New York City, I had been seeing friends and acquaintances suddenly dying before their time. These tragedies, and my mother's terminal illness, made me confront my own mortality.”


Interestingly, the other artist who made a major contribution to the history, Näkki Goranin, whose American Photobooth was published in this century,[3] also developed her obsession after her mother died—in 1999. She needed to continue her photography, but couldn't focus so photobooth self-portraits became her answer. Eventually she traveled from her native Vermont on a nine-year odyssey that uncovered many new details about the undocumented chronology emerging from her questions into the elusive origins of coin-operated automated self-portrait photography. Without her hard work, this survey would not be possible. I encourage you to buy and read her book from which much of this history is gratefully lifted.

The Pioneers 1880-1925

Despite the independent discoveries, inventions and ground-breaking schemes of this era, it often seems to me that the same invention was repeatedly attempted over and over with nothing really sticking. Every invention seems so close but obviously failed or we would have heard of it before now.

According to Boyle, “In 1883, Percival Everett invented the first commercially viable coin-operated vending machine. For many products, sales people became unnecessary and by 1887… vending became a craze, and machines, which dispensed everything from postcards to seltzer, sprang up across America and Europe.”

This sets the stage for our story but we must also keep in mind that prior to the creation of the young art of photography in 1839 and its influence disseminated by the likes of the first famous photographers Matthew Brady and the Southworth and Hawes studio, only a mirror could show a person how they looked and that privledge was reserved mostly for aristocratic subjects. In 1852 tintypes began to democratize the process, reaching the height of their popularity between 1861 and 1863 and threatening the expensive, elitist daguerreotype, the previous artistic standard, which were made from copper, silver, mercury and gold. Brady attempted to pooh-pooh the new tintypes in an “address to the public” calling what he did the only “true art” and asked if it was best to “permit it to degenerate by inferiority of materials.” [4]

The “inferior” innovation, which later made the photobooth possible, was the ferrotype, also known as the melainotype, which produced a positive proof on a metal plate painted black. Developed in Gambier and Lancaster, Ohio, it involved reproducing a photographic image on very thin sheets of iron instead of glass and multiple tintypes could be produced at one time from a single sheet of iron. The tintype process was faster, simpler, cheaper, and more durable and thus became the first medium of mass portraiture photos, spreading like wildfire when entrepeneurs set up studios in every downtown and at every attraction, fair ground and Main Street in the USA. A skilled or experienced operator was barely needed. Operators traveled from town to town.

But despite breakthroughs, little came of the many tintype patents and demonstrations of the earliest automated photography machines because most were not really self-operative and needed frequent chemical changes and repairs[5].

According to undocumented accounts often repeated on the Internet[6], the first patent for an automated photography machine was filed on January 9, 1888 by William Pope and Edward Poole of Baltimore. Also repeated is the assertion that “it probably was never built. [7]

A year later, on 22 January 1889, a patent in England[8] granted to Matthew Stiffens[9]; from Chicago[10] the Auto-Photo, required a whole room and assistance from an entire team. Later that year, at the Paris World’s Fair (aka Exposition Universelle), Ernest Enjalbert’s coin operated device[11] made an exposure from 3 to 6 seconds and delivered a framed ferrotype in 5 minutes—a “wet collodion proof on a thin metal plate” covered with a “perfectly black glossy lacquer.” but the magazine La Nature in 1895 said, “A portrait could barely be seen and was often unrecognizable.” Nonetheless, they were enough of a novelty to be installed in Paris at the Jardin D’acclimatation. 18 years later the same magazine reviewed an improved French machine called the Ashton-Wolff. They declared in their January 11, 1913 issue that the customer sits on a revolving stool “facing the lens housed in a cone and looks into a small convex mirror like the viewfinder of a box camera.” A process described in great detail concludes with a direct quote from a sign that apparently lit up after the exposure: “Thank you, the photograph has been taken, you may stand up. In four minutes your portrait will come out of the bottom of the device.”

The Bosco Automat, a coin-operated automatic photographic booth patented on July 16, 1890 and named for an Italian magician[12] was successful but didn’t last. It premiered at the First International Exposition of Amateur Photography at the Hamburg Kunsthalle in 1893 and delivered a ferrotype in 3 minutes, developed and fixed in a small tin dish, which also served as a frame and had some advertising on the backside. It briefly was popular at turn of the century at amusement parks, fairs and café-concerts.

Containing as many as 400 metal plates, while hailed as “devices for instant photography (that) could be installed and left to operate on their own in public places, squares, parks theaters, etc.” none of the machines were, in fact, ever totally self-operative and failed because of coin jams and their need for frequent chemical changes and repairs.

Furthermore, the photographic product these machines produced was considered second-rate compared to the more desirable albumin and platinum prints which were costly and required the services of a professional photographer and studio. These tintypes were stiff and awkward in addition to being difficult to view in many lighting situations. Nevertheless thousands upon thousands were produced. Tintypes were cheap and easy portraits of the masses. Producing tintypes for use as souvenirs, ID s and tokens of affection, this type of machine proliferated.

Other products included the Photo-MŹcanique or Photo-Automatique in France and in the USA, the turn of the century Automatic Photographic Machine that could make a portrait in thirty seconds, and the GE Electric Coin Op Machine of 1915. GE also put out a machine in the US and Canada that produced “penny photos,” popular at the time with ads even appearing for automated machines.

A Cleveland 1920s inventor George Piper, whose partner Leo Stern went on to take the photo of Harry Truman that is now a US postage stamp, created the Speedtype Operating Company’s machines that produced positive images on paper but required an attendant and daily maintenance. He drove to California through the South, creating, en route, assisted small portraits of local subjects in department stores and local storefronts. He called the pictures— a little smaller than the Photomaton that appeared shortly thereafter—“Hollywood gems”. Speedtype had a good run for an assisted process but went out of business after WWII.

The Success Story 1925-1950

The ultimate sweepstakes winner in the photobooth story is Anatol Josepho, born in deepest Russia in 1894 and who died wealthy in southern California in 1980. In 1925, Josepho (shortened from Josephewitz) patented the Photomaton that made him a millionaire overnight, an impressive achievement for a Serbian Jew with ancestors who had once literally been banished to his native Siberia. Born to a prosperous jeweler and his wife in the industrial but isolated town of Omsk, his mother soon died and by age 15, dreaming of the American Wild West, he told his father it was time for him to explore the world and with his blessing traveled alone to Berlin to seek his fortune. Nine years after Eastman Kodak introduced its Brownie camera in 1900, he managed, with one in hand, to land a photo studio job. He repeated that feat in Hungary but failed to find work in New York so he returned home in 1920 to find Omsk pillaged by the Red Army. Off to China and Mongolia the following year, traveling as an itinerant photographer, he opened his own successful studio in Shanghai in 1921, known then as “The Paris of the East,” using 5 x 7 inch negatives generating “ping pong” or “penny” photos with the popular “penny camera” of the day—not automated but inexpensive in horizontal photographic strips. With carefully created blueprints he drew during his China travels for his eventual invention’s mechanical and chemical components, he returned to America to find backers. He landed at Seattle, went to Hollywood for motion picture experience then finally Manhattan with $30 and his blueprints. “I had relatives in New York City. With their aid, and that of friends, I raised what I needed to produce the first model”. He raised $11,000—the cost of 5 houses—then found the appropriate machinists and engineers to build, in a Harlem loft on 125th Street, the prototype—a curtain-enclosed booth where people could take good quality photographic portraits anonymously and automatically—for 25 cents produced on a strip of 8 in 8 minutes.

By September 1925 he opened the Photomaton Studio at Broadway and 51st Street and with attendants at three booths and with attendants at three booths, attracted as many as 7,500 people a day leading to 280,000 customers in the first 6 months. The Broadway store was open till 4 a.m., with much of the business taking place at night. Within 20 years there were more than 30,000 booths in the United States alone, due largely to World War II soldiers exchanging photos with their loved ones. But first Anatol, who was romancing his future wife, a beautiful silent film actress named Ganna, was contacted by Henry Morganthau, the former American ambassador to Turkey and an American Red Cross founder, whose team bought the Photomaton machines and the U.S. patent rights. A March 1927 headline of The New York Times read: “Slot Photo Device Brings $1,000,000 to Young Inventor”. The deal, worth $12 million today, also guaranteed future royalties for his invention.

Plans commenced to open studios in Atlantic City and Coney Island to be followed by 70 across the country that would then double in number. The Times article compared Josepho’s invention to Henry Ford’s in terms of mass production and by the late ‘20s Morganthau established a factory in Long Island City, Queens, across the East River that began churning out machines. Less than a month after the Times front page, the April 4, 1927 issue of Time magazine announced the deal and that Governor of New York Al Smith had sat for a picture with his wife at the Broadway location.

By the end of 1927, a British investor group purchased rights to distribute it in Europe and Canada. A side note: in London on September 29, 1929, Clarence Charles Hatry, the head of the new corporation, had his holdings entangled in a case of fraud and bankruptcy that lead to a plunge in the London stock exchange that was a prelude to the nosedive a month later of the New York Stock Exchange. The Photomaton Parent Corporation became an unfortunate symbol of a sharply overvalued company with Hatry serving nine years for fraud.

Nonetheless, on both sides of the Atlantic, innovations followed. A year could be printed on the back of the photos, as could the location, advertisements and other references that still survive. Stools positioned on scales could record the sitter’s weight. Enlargements, framing, wallet-sized shots and hand-coloring were available. Images could be printed on mirrors. Finally, mail artists would have enjoyed the custom envelopes later sold on site so the one-off images in metal frames could be mailed on the spot.

In France and Belgium, machines required a quarter shaped coin tokens were created. One source has revealed that for the booths in France, it was only in 1968—40 years later—that they could be operated alone. Prior to that the lens would be adjusted and poses were suggested. Even at Josepho’s Broadway studio attendants helped customers navigate the long queues and shepherded novices into the booths with instructions.

Imitators popped up within the year. “Photo-Movette” opened up a few doors away on Broadway with the motto, “Pose yourself” playing off Photomaton’s slogan “Just picture yourself.” A device called the PDQ was functionally similar with one distinction—a man hiding inside the booth would develop the film and push it out through a slot. “Movie photos” took three pictures on the same frame of treated photo paper and made an animated image when the strip was pulled in a red folder.

In 1931 a Canadian David Mc Cowan created the Phototeria using photodiscs, not long strips, making him able to reduce the size of the machines. He tried to sell the idea in the U.S. and traveled to a Chicago trade show to do so but when he arrived Al Capone met him at the elevator and told him he controlled the vending machines so McCowan turned on his heels and went back to Canada. Other “copycats” in the US included Auto-Photo-Dome, The Quartermatic, the Photoweigh Machine, the Movie Of You, the Tru-Photo Machine, American Photure Co., the Automatic Film Machine Corporation and the Photola Photosnap.

One of the most interesting competitors emerged from within the company. Farther down Broadway, between 47th and 48th Streets, John Anton Slack eventually opened a studio, so popular that he kept a large extended family employed there through the Depression. Slack had refined Josepho’s procedures and began applying for patents related to the machines. The units previously needed a water supply that he eliminated. He speeded up the process and invented innovations such as the creation of silhouettes. Finally in 1932 he divorced his wife, quit his job as the assistant production manager and married the secretary to the president so they could open their own store. He bought equipment from other competitors and imitators and created the American Portraiture Corporation. Ironically, one 1933 idea he never patented was the chemical-free booth that would have used a photoelectric cell or other electric current some eighty years before today’s popular digital photos.

One competitor eventually did take over Josepho’s technology after Slack’s departure. In 1894, Herman Casler, an inventor who had previously worked for Thomas Edison, invented the Mutoscope, a flip card viewer to compete with Edison’s Kinetograph. He also invented the Biograph projector for 70 mm film. Mutoscope created films for Mary Pickford and D.W. Griffith, the film pioneers who later started United Artists with Charlie Chaplin. In the 1930s, Casler fell in love with the photobooth and saw its Ferrotype-based chemistry as something with great potential, and created the Photo-See Model 100, a home technology that was too messy for children to whom it was incorrectly marketed. By 1934 his International Mutoscope and Reel Company was bought by William Rabkin who later also bought the copyright of the Photomaton and set out to create a better design, art deco exteriors and turn Josepho’s machine into the “Photomatic.” He did so and in the 1940s the pictures became even bigger business with concessions in the NYC subway, the Port Authority, Penn Station, Grand Central and the Staten Island Ferry and at the 1939 New York World’s Fair.

Selling on every continent with booths available in any color, the Mutoscope Photomatic eventually became the Deluxe Photomat with 4 images on strips in the form popularized today. But when Rabkin died suddenly after WWII, his son took over and the company went bankrupt. In the 1950s the self-proclaimed Arcade King Rick Munves bought the business and created a 28-page catalogue of photobooths and other arcade games. Tenth Avenue from 41st to 43rd Street “was the coin-op world at that time,” a New York Times article recently recalled[13]. “Every coin-op vending machine that was sold in the tri-state area went through the distributors there.” But we who grew up in the 60s and 70s never used these machines because they were outdone by Auto-Photo who had better distribution and sadly sent most of the early Photomaton to the junk heap.

1950 to Today: Photo Me

Today the Photomatic machines are hard to find because they were beaten in competition with the better distribution of the Auto-Photo Co. who ushered in the California-ization of the photobooth with a 1946 copyright by I.D. Baker for different ways of running the paper through the chemicals and altering the guts of the machine. Floodlights were replaced by a strobe but most importantly, their business model was different. The machines were rented and a giant deal was cut with Woolworth’s and Kresge’s. A factory in LA cranked out thousands of the 700 lbs. Model 9 machines. Eventually Floodlights were replaced by a strobe. Furthermore, the design called the Model 11 became more art deco with a curved side. In the late 1950s, Auto-Photo even marketed Model 11A for police and prison mug shots. Stripped of any decoration or curtain, its numbered strip could be held or inserted on the photo. In 1964, the Auto-Photo introduced its last black and white machine, the Model 14. Eventually the corporation was bought by Photo-Me, a British-based company based in Bookham, Surrey, operating internationally. By the 1960s the advent of Polaroid photography spelled doom for the “four strip,” a fixture at arcades and drugstores everywhere. In the 1970s color strips became big sellers. The American part of the business was shrinking. Chemical photobooths were phased out. It became Image Dynamics then finally Photo-me USA LLC.

In the 1990s, Photo-Me promoted lightweight digital color photobooths using a computer and printout paper that made prints at a much faster rate. But people continue to covet the old black-and-white chemical booths until photo sticker booths became a craze. In Japan, purikura, derived from the English print club, refers to sticker booths and their output, first sold in July 1995. They failed to make any impression in Europe when introduced. The name is a shortened form of the registered trademark Purinto Kurabu, jointly developed by Atlus and Sega, that has spread throughout Australia and East Asia to Taiwan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Philippines, China, Vietnam, and Thailand. Some have begun appearing in North America.

Today, photobooths are mostly used to create identification for passports and driving licenses, with the UK, Japan, and France the strongest in photobooth use, followed by Germany, Italy and Spain with Benelux countries, Scandinavia and Australia markets all on the rise. Three or four times as many photobooths are in the UK than there are in the whole of the U.S., which is home to about ten thousand machines[14].

One innovation that will be of note to mail art types and purikura fans is the 1911 “Sticky Backs”: six images on a 2 x 1.5 inch strips with adhesive gum on its back. On each shot there appeared a serial number with the name and address of the studio Spiridione Grossi’s StickyBack and Post Cart Studio 54 North Street, Brighton, England. Grossi also developed a photographic device that would “deliver a certain number of photographs on a single strip of paper.”

And whatever happened to Anatol Josepho? He married the actress Ganna and the couple had two sons and seven grandchildren. After selling the patent rights for the photobooth, he moved to Los Angeles where he patented several other inventions including a one-knob shower handle. He also bought and developed real estate in California. Determined to give away at least half of his fortune, his philanthropic activities included the largest single donation in Boy Scout history: 110 acres of land near Brentwood and Santa Monica, valued at 55 million dollars which they named Camp Josepho. He died from complications of a stroke in late 1980.

Finally, before his death in 1980, Josepho was given the honorary degree of Doctor of Science in Technology by the Technion, the important Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa (which also named a building in his honor because of his generosity towards them). But it is interesting to note that prior to that, Josepho was on the board of the Technion and at one time, coincidentally, so was William Rabkin, the man who had bought the Mutoscope Corporation and then the rights to Josepho’s patents. Curiously, there is no record of any meeting or contact ever between these two men who both happened to have run the same company in different eras. It is not clear if they even knew each other.

The Art of the Photobooth

I once said about mail art that “the address is the art,” meaning that all that is required is an artist at the destination to seal the deal. No further embellishment is needed. The same can be said of photobooths. The person who sits down in a photobooth and drops their coins into the slot becomes the art, no matter what they do. In 1979 Roland Barthes said “the Photomat always turns you into a criminal type, wanted by the police.” Neither of these perceptions have deterred people from doing all sorts of interesting things in photobooths, including “stripping” and committing “lewd acts” which almost killed the craze in the ‘50s when the machines started appearing unattended in Woolworth’s and other chain stores. There is something uniquely magical and completely spontaneous that happens behind the curtains in these simultaneously most private and most public of art-making locales. Here is a list of artists and show biz types who used photobooths of various kinds and the date they did so, in chronological order, thanks to date stamps on the images or on the back. These images exist in the various books on the subject, reducing everyone to a common denominator, a person in a photobooth. There is something strangely equalizing about it:

Marc Chagall, 1915-1920ish with a Montmartre address.

Louis Aragon, September 3, 1917

Giorgio De Chirico, December 10, 1933

Errol Flynn and Maurice Chevalier, September 1938

Jean-Louis Barrault, April 18, 1940

Abel Gance, April 8, 1946

Sidney Bechet, September 29, 1950

Bing Crosby, May 19, 1953

John Lennon, August 25, 1960

Ethel Skull –for Andy Warhol 1963 which he then made into a famous portrait. (Warhol often brought people to the arcade at 47th and Broadway. This well documented elsewhere. Warhol used the photobooth for portraits before he used the Polaroid.) Warhol’s assistant Gerard Malanga used photobooths quite a bit both before and after he teamed up with Andy.

Warhol in a tux 1964

Walker Evans, June 23, 1970

Many people credit Warhol with being the artist who first used to photobooth for serious art but in fact shortly after Josepho’s headline-grabbing invention made a splash in 1927, in the following year Photomaton installed booths on the Champs-Élysées in Paris and the Surrealist André Breton, whose novel “Nadja” was published that year, “rounded up as many of the Surrealists as he could grab and took them there to pose for portraits. They all posed with their eyes closed, as though dreaming.

Breton created an image that includes photo-booth portraits of Breton, a young Salvador Dalí and Luis BuĖuel, Max Ernst, Jacques Prevert, Raymond Queneau, Yves Tanguy, Robert Desnos, Rene Magritte and others.

In Hollywood, by the time of the 1953 film The Band Wagon with Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse, photobooths were demanding attention. Astaire performs a number where he dances into a Photomatic, sits for a photo, the flash goes off in time to the music, and he dances out. (Compare it to the 1928 silent film The Cameraman, where Buster Keaton was a bungling street photographer shooting tintypes but not able to attract customers.) [15]

In 1957, Esquire magazine lugged one of Mutascope's art deco booths into Richard Avedon's New York studio. According to the article, Avedon “has long asserted that true photographic talent cannot be restrained by a camera's technical limitations”. The Esquire editors picked celebrities and challenged Avedon to produce photographs. The resulting photomatic essay is stunning, including images of Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, Truman Capote and Ethel Merman.

Speaking of Marilyn, JFK and Jackie O had a beautiful photobooth image shot of themselves on their honeymoon.

Finally, Hilhaven Lodge: The Photo Booth Pictures is a monograph by Hollywood director Brett Ratner (the Rush Hour movies and Tower Heist) and features the following stars in Ratner's old-fashioned photo booth located in his home, Hilhaven Lodge, the former estate of famed actress Ingrid Bergman: Michael Jackson, Russell Simmons, Sean Combs, Colin Farrell, Britney Spears, Chelsea Clinton, Aaliyah, Shaquille O'Neal, Chris Tucker, Jackie Chan, Dino De Laurentis, Clive Davis, Edward Norton, Salma Hayek, Ralph Fiennes, Val Kilmer, Harvey Keitel, Heath Ledger, Heidi Klum, Jack Osbourne, Jay-Z, John C. Reilly, Kim Cattrall, Tommy Hilfiger, Tony Shafrazi, Liv Tyler, Mariah Carey, Matthew McConnaughey, Nicolas Cage, Norman Lear, Paris Hilton, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Quentin Tarantino, Quincy Jones, Robert Downey Jr., Rebecca Gayheart, Danny DeVito, Eve, Kelis, Jewel, Naomi Watts, and many more.[16]

Ray Johnson and Al Hansen, both non-joiners and unclassifiable contemporaries of Happenings and Fluxus artists, both used photobooths in their work. In the next generation, images of Vito Acconci and Christian Boltanski exist. After that, all bets are off. For the next generation, including me, if not for many generations before me, photobooths have been a mainstay of pop culture and part of our lives from the get-go and so virtually everyone I know has used the medium to make a few strips for their art or just to hang on the refrigerator.

Text © copyright 2012 Mark Bloch
All photos © copyright 2012 Mark Bloch


[1] The mail artists I know using photobooth portraits in their work are too numerous to mention. I personally have used them since the late 70s. I did so early on with other M’bwebwe artists Dave Cole, Tom Little, Jim Quinlan and Chris Cosma.

Bern Boyle cites the following artists in his book: Jared Bark, George, Susan Sandy Wassenmiller, Claire Connors , Herman Costa, Liz Rideal, Koplowitz and Taback, Aerosol, Margaret Fox, and Dorothy Handeleman.


[2] Bern Boyle and Linda Duchin, Photomaton, a contemporary survey of Photobooth Art, 1987.


[3] Näkki Goranin, American Photobooth, published by W.W. Norton & Company, February 2008. This book contains extraordinary amounts of research and most of the material in my article comes from Ms. Goranin’s book. Unless otherwise cited, you can assume it came from there. I am simply reordering and reframing and sometimes simplifying much of her information because while I loved her research, I was hoping for a more straightforward chronological presentation of the innovations as I have attempted to do here. If anyone is offended by the way I have handled their research or would like to provide feedback of any kind, I encourage them to contact me and I will set things right.


[4] This section used the following three texts: Rinhart, Floyd; Rinhart, Marion; Wagner, Robert W. The American Tintype, Ohio State University Press, 1999. pg 97; Steven Kasher, Brian Wallis, Geoffrey Batchen, Karen Halttunen. America and the Tintype. Steidl, 2008 and Schimmelman, Janice G. The Tintype in America 1856-1880. American Philosophical Society, 2007 Philadelphia, pg 248.

[5] Boyle [see footnote 2] cites Estabrooke, Edward. The Ferrotype and How to Make It (1872)

[6] The oft-repeated sentence is never sourced. Other possible confusing misinformation also found on the Internet: On 16 October 1888 was an inventor named Sacco, French Patent No. 193 734 for a similar machine. Finally, in On February 20, 1889 Christel Fögen, Joseph Rader and Carl Griese from Hamburg, are said to have received 51 081 patent on their "self-acting apparatus for the production of photographs."

[7]Since no records were found demontrating that these early machines were ever brought to market, I am uncertain about these French tintypists who built “automatic photo machines” : Ferrer’s Photographic Automaton-1895; Automatic Photograph Machine-1895-US; Photoscope-late 1890s-US.

[8] Goranin, Näkki. American Photobooth, W. W. Norton & Co., 2008


[10] According to Wikipedia, A German born photographer named Mathew Steffens filed a patent for such a machine in May 1889. Chicago? England? Germany? It is not clear where this person was from or where the patent was granted but this is commonly cited as the first relevant attempt to create something akin to a "photobooth".



[11] All three of these successful French machines appeared in Pellicer, Raynal. Photobooth: The Art of the Automatic Portrait, Abrams, 2010.


[12] According to Wikipedia, Giovanni Bartolomeo Bosco (January 3, 1793 – March 7, 1863) was an Italian magician, best known for his adroitness with the famous “cups and balls.”

[13] Strausbaugh, John. “Coin. Smile. Click!” The New York Times: Published: March 14, 2008. Retrieved January 10, 2012

[14] Estimate according to Nick Montano, executive editor of the industry monthly Vending Times.

[15] is an excellent site that has lists of over 130 films that have photobooth scenes. It also lists about 40 songs and some 37 books that range from monographs devoted to the topic to Just Kids by Patti Smith that features a photobooth picture of her and Robert Maplethorpe on the cover. There are many wonderful related sites on the web but make sure you see that one and also and


[16] Ratner, Brett and Evans, Robert. Hilhaven Lodge: The Photo Booth Pictures. PowerHouse Books, Apr 29, 2003.


Text © copyright 2012 Mark Bloch
All photos © copyright 2012 Mark Bloch

mark bloch photobooth photo