Anyone over the age of 50 likely knows the experience of cramming into a photo booth with a bunch of friends, pulling the curtain closed behind and saying “cheese.” Others may be more familiar with that easily recognizable strip of four photos tucked into the frame of a dresser mirror or fixed to a fridge door.
From simpler times to the digital age, the lone eye of the photo booth has captured the faces of generation after generation.
The original roots date back to the late 1800s when a number of patents were filed for automated photography machines both in the United States and Europe. It wasn’t until about 1920 when inventor Anotol Josepho opened the first Photomaton Studio featuring curtain-enclosed booths enabling customers to take quality photos — delivered automatically only minutes later for 25 cents — that the novelty took off.
Through the ‘30s, ‘40s and ‘50s, thousands of the machines of various designs using a variety of processes could be found from California to Calais and beyond.
Whether it was just your average Joe or famous celebrity, there was a time when everyone from presidents to prison inmates might have found themselves under the photo booth’s bright lights.
The introduction of instant photography in the 1960s resulted in a downturn of fortunes for the once thriving industry and with the advent of digital photography promised so many more possibilities, the photo booth no longer held the allure it once had.
Down but certainly not out, the photo booth is finding new life in the party business.
No longer relegated to train station lobbies, amusement parks or the entrance of discount department stores, the latest incarnations are now literally popping up at anything from weddings and birthday parties to corporate events.
“We wanted to bring something different to the area, more of an experience, a bit more cutting edge and upbeat,” said Elizabeth Morgan, one of the owners of One Eye Entertainment.
Along with her business partner Jeremy Lauzon, the pair offers what they call a “photo booth experience” that can add a party-like atmosphere to almost any gathering.
At first glance, the setup might remind you of one of those blow-up, bouncy castles. In fact, it’s something very different, with flashing programmable LEDs inside and outside, accompanied by upbeat music. A digital camera connected to a monitor lets the user see the picture they’re about to take and a printer captures those moments.
And unlike other digital event printing systems where those getting their photos taken are out in the open for all to see, Morgan being inside the booth lowers their inhibitions in front of the camera.
“You’re able to loosen up a little bit and have some fun while creating some eye-catching memories. That’s the whole point of having the dome-shaped booth. There is that element of privacy where you don’t have to feel like everyone is watching you.”