In this blog I will be using the term photobooth as one word rather that two to save space.
Most people could argue that the correct English term is the phrase of two words photo booth and it is more often written this way, but let me be a rebel – LOL.
Besides that, almost every photobooth or photo booth company has a website which for internet reasons is condensed to www.xyzphotobooth.com .
No, that does not justify changing the term from the proper two words to the more familiar one word, photobooth. But like I said before, in order to save space, and because I am a rebel, that is exactly what I’ll do.
Although in the wedding business the portable photobooth is a relatively new phenomena, in the shopping malls and arcades and exhibitions of the world photobooths have been around almost as long as the cameras and vending machines from which they are derived. Photobooths have become a part of American culture as much as baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet.
The concept of using optics to create images was first described by Chinese and Greek philosophers in the 4th and 5th centuries BC but cameras themselves did not become a practicality till the middle of the 19th century. The first American patent for photography was issued to Alexander Wolcott in 1840 but it was George Eastman’s patent to the Kodak roll-film camera that first brought cameras into more widespread use in 1888.
Just as with photography, vending machines also have a history that dates back a long ling time. The Greek mathematician Hero is credited with inventing a machine to vend holy water in Egyptian temples in 215 BC but once again it was in the late 19th century that the practical modern uses of vending machines came into use. The Thomas Adams gum company is credited with introducing the first vending machines in the United States in 1888. These machines sold Tutti-Frutti gum on the elevated subway platforms of the New York City.
A cross between vending machines and cameras, it was not long before photobooths started appearing. Photobooths have a fascinating history and I am sure many people who operate photobooths today will appreciate getting an insight to the many generations and the re-incarnations of machines that eventually led to today’s photobooths.
Over in England, the first accounts of a photobooth type of business rests with Spiridione Grossi and his “Sticky Back” portraits. Grossi had applied for patents and was using some sort of apparatus that took six small portraits and then placed them on a narrow strip of photo paper that had adhesive matter pasted on the back, much like a postage stamp. Technically this was not a photobooth as the picture was taken by a human, but it was the first account of a strip of photos much like we would later see in the automatic booths.
Matthew Stiffens had patented an automatic photography machine in France in 1889, as had a few others worldwide. The first huge success amongst photobooth operators in America however rests with Anatol Marco Josepho (1894-1980) who created a machine called the Photomaton which produces a strip of 8 photographic portraits in 8 minutes for 25 cents.
When he opened the machine up to the public in New York City at 1659 Broadway (between 51st and 52nd St) in the summer of 1925 it was an instant success. Similar to accounts of when Atlantic City first opened its doors to casino gambling much later, people were literally standing around the block to get their pictures taken. According to an article published in Time magazine on April 4, 1927, 280,000 people patronized the first Photomaton location in its first 6 months, during which time he kept it open 24 hours a day.
In 1927 Josepho sold his machines and his patent to a group of investors for the even sum of one million dollars plus guarantees of future royalties, and the rest is history. For the remaining 50 or so years of his life Josepho was a very rich man and generous contributor to various causes.
It was not long before photobooths appeared on just about every corner. Many imitators also entered the picture (no pun intended), and even World War II increased the demand for photobooths in that soldiers were using the photobooths to send small pictures of themselves to their loved ones and in return their loved ones sent a picture back. According to some estimates, by the early 1950’s there were more than 30,000 photobooths in the United States.
The Photomaton itself however, had lost the majority of its market share by this time to Auto-Photo Company which had better distribution and was able to cut giant deals with Woolworth’s and Kresge’s, two of the retail giants of the time, for rental space. Known primarily as Model 9 and Model 11 machines, the 700 pound machines were cranked out by the thousands. They were a fixture at just about every arcade and drugstore, and at one pint were even used by police department and prisons for mug shots.
The artist most famous for utilizing photobooth pictures in their art is Andy Warhol. Over the course of his career Warhol made hundreds of photobooth portraits and self-portraits and often used these to produce silkscreen paintings. All of this of course helped to establish photobooths as essential parts of American culture.
By the late 60’s the introduction of Polaroid photography caused the photobooth business to shrink for the first time in almost 40 years. The Auto-Photo company was bought by Photo-Me, a company based out of Britain and although photobooths never did disappear they were in trouble. Of course the manufacturers of mall and arcade photobooths did not give up even in a declining market. First color booths, then sticker booths and finally digital booths replaced the old standards in different phases.
Some estimates put the current number of mall and arcade photobooths in the United States at arolunt 10,000 with many times that number existing around the world. Almost all current photobooths are digital. Only a handful of historic chemical ones remain and they are housed mostly in private collections and museums. Of course, as we all know, portable mobile photobooths started appearing shortly after the start of the millennium.
So if you are looking for a portable aluminum photo booth, keep us in mind. RBA Photobooths have a wide range of selections to choose from and we guarantee to save you money on your photo booth purchase.