American Photobooth
Nakki Goranin
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Buy *American Photobooth* by Nakki Goranin online

American Photobooth
Nakki Goranin
W.W. Norton
224 pages
February 2008
rated 5 of 5 possible stars

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This excellent coffee-table book is a wonderful addition to any collection, awakening the nostalgia of earlier, simpler times, the pages filled with black-and-white and color images of the photo strips that could once be purchased by the public for twenty-five cents all across America.

Perhaps you would have to have experienced that art form to appreciate its appeal, but the author speaks as well to the history of this unique machine where people would sit in front of a camera, insert their coin, and minutes later receive a strip of four tiny pictures as a memento. It is clear from the expressions on the faces of the people in the images that these photobooths offered an inexpensive way to capture a memory.

There are couples, friends mugging for the camera, newlyweds, and soldiers with their girls before sailing off to World War II. These are the faces of hopeful America, people taking advantage of a trend that spread all over the country, even during the hardships of the Depression.

It started with the 1894 invention in Paris of the first vending machine. Once coin-operated machines came into vogue, it wasn’t long before a clever entrepreneur constructed a small booth with a camera, and the photobooth was born. The original booths used water to process the film, but technology and innovation quickly produced the “plumbless” machine that no longer required a water supply.

Soon there were advances in the creation of the photographs that refined the process, inventors constantly simplifying the chemical baths to produce the images, the size and convenience of the booths, updating as required. Color strips arrived in the 1970s, but by the ‘80s these chemical photobooths were nearly phased out, no longer part of the landscape of local department stores, malls and other accessible places.

Beginning as family ventures, especially during the Depression and the war years, these booths were easily maintained for public access and sported a number of names: Photomaton, Phototeria, Mutoscope Photographics, Photo-Me USA, Tru-Photo and Photo-Dome. Later, Andy Warhol was the first art promoter to take advantage of photobooth art, adding it to the American artistic lexicon.

Thanks to Goranin’s extensive research and compilation of this unique art form, this high-quality book offers a peek into the past, page after page of smiling faces, hoping to capture a moment in a fast-moving world. Now that photobooths are “on the brink of extinction,” American Photobooth remains a testament to American entrepreneurial spirit.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Luan Gaines, 2008

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