Illustration by Abigail Wright
I have always been fascinated with analogue photo booths. I have vivd memories as a child – the excitement and anticipation, malady pulling ridiculous faces, find never really knowing what you’ll get until the old machines clunk and churn out your photographs. So, on a recent trip to Berlin, I was desperate to get back involved, like so many others, with the analogue phenomenon.
A short while after my return, I discovered that the Photoautomat project that exists in Berlin had transferred to London – one of those brightly coloured, glorious booths had been on my own doorstep and I didn’t even realise. A bit of internet research, a blog and a Twitter account later, I met Alex – Photoautomat’s London representative. He’s on a mission to bring back the beauty and art of the old-fashioned photo booth. Me, Amelia and fashion writers Sally and Jemma paid Alex a visit on a crisp Saturday morning to get involved, and have a chat with the man himself…
How did the Photoautomat project start, and where did the booths come from?
Well, it really started about 5 years ago in Germany, where my friends bought one of the booths because they were fascinated with the old analogue machines and the photos they produce. Soon it took over Berlin and the rest of the country. I got interested in the booth when I was over visiting and followed my friends around to look after the booths. We all have our memories from when we were young and fooling around in those booths at the Mall, but seeing them again in Berlin really ignited my passion for them again.
What do you know about the history of the booths?
The photo booth was invented 1925 by a Russian immigrant in New York. He opened his Photomaton Studio on Broadway. For just 25 cents, everybody could get their photograph taken. That was quite a revolution back then as photography was just for the rich and famous; because of the booths, it became accessible to everybody.
From then on they were used as props in movies such as Band Wagon with Fred Astaire, by artists like Andy Warhol and people from all backgrounds for fun or memories and obviously passport photos.
Where are the booths located now?
Our booths are all over Germany. Most of them are in Berlin, but also in Hamburg, Dresden and Cologne. We launched a booth a while ago in Vienna. Then there is my booth here in London. There are also booths in Paris and Italy.
How did this one end up in Cargo?
I thought it would be much easier to get a good location for a photo booth in London, but it turned out to be more difficult than I thought – policies and regulations mean a seemingly straightforward thing as installing a photo booth quite a task. I approached Cargo and they gave me the space in their beer garden straight away; they just liked the idea and it was done.
Photoautomat Cargo. Photograph by Matt Bramford
Why do you think the booths are so popular?
Well, people always like old things: vintage, analogue. The rebirth of Polaroid showed there is still a demand for analogue photography.There is something precious about a photo booth strip. It’s one moment, one photo and it can’t be replicated. No negative, no back up, just like real life. The photos also have a better quality than digital ones. There are apps out there on smart-phones to imitate the effect and I understand that most people don’t want to go through the hassle of having a analogue camera. This is where the photo booths come in. For a few quid, you can take your photo booth strip with your friends and keep that moment forever.
How do you think the qualities of these booths compare to the modern booths we see in train stations/etc?
I guess I answered that question above, but there really is no comparison. The digital ones lack quality and depth and the spontaneity you have in the analogue booth.
Are there any other London locations planned? Or elsewhere in Europe?
I am looking for more locations in London. I would love to get some booths on the Southbank.
Has the booth been used for anything other than people taking pictures with their mates?
I had a photo shoot last year with Mixmag in the booth. It was a fashion special with hats. There were also a few artists who used the booth for their projects. Fionna Banner used the booth for her work twice.
Photoautomat Berlin. Photograph by Matt Bramford
Have you seen/heard any funny experiences concerning the photo booth that you can share?
I had a guy calling me once – he was totally out of it. He took some photos with his girlfriend and they didn’t came out. She got naked and they were concerned that they might get into the wrong hands. I wasn’t in town at that time and couldn’t do anything about it, but he insisted for me to come around. I finally managed to calm him down and sort everything out.
What are you favourite images that the booth has created?
That would have to be all the photos form the exhibition/project we had during Photomonth last year. They reflect what the whole photo booth thing is all about.
Who would be your ideal customer – who would you most like to see use the booth?
Everybody is ideal. Everybody is welcome, as long as they respect our work and leave the booth as they found it for the next to come! Most likely they are probably analogue enthusiasts, students and Cargo guests. I have families, a couple from Lisbon, artists form Nottingham and even Henry Holland taking their photo in the booth!
A Photoautomat booth in Berlin, photographed by Lizz Lunney
What does the Photoautomat project hope to achieve, long term?
Hopefully we’re here for years to come and give people from all backgrounds the opportunity to have their little moment. It’s really all up to the people who use our booths and what they make of it. That is the beauty about it – and always will be.
See more pictures from the booths on the Photoautomat Facebook and Flickr pages.
Eco Fashion is the first book on ethical fashion design from publishing giant Laurence King. It profiles ethical fashion designers by type, malady embracing Community and Fair Trade, page Ecological and Slow Design and Corporate Initiatives in separate chapters. Author Sass Brown clearly has a good knowledge of her subject; she sells her own ethical collection in the UK and Canada, is Resident Director of the New York Fashion Institute of Technology‘s programme in Florence, and has helped out in women’s cooperatives across South America.
Across 200 pages the book showcases look book and studio shots of designers from around the world in the fields of clothing and accessories design, accompanied by short potted histories. It does what it says on the tin: giving a good all round introduction to ethical fashion design, with just enough technical information to inspire rather than bore. It falls down where all publications from large publishers suffer: books take so long to get to market that the information they contain is already out of date – whilst Sass does well to steer away from too many references to specific collections nothing beyond 2009 is mentioned, and crucially she has missed out some of the most exciting new ethical fashion designers that are now coming to the fore. No Ada Zanditon, no Beautiful Soul, no Henrietta Ludgate and no Christopher Raeburn. In the fast moving world of fashion design this is a real failure – but an unavoidable one when working with the long lead times of a big publisher. Sass Brown also keeps a blog where she features the more recent work of designers that did not make it into her book.
Naturally, if I were to suggest you were to buy one book on ethical fashion then I would recommend that you instead buy mine, featuring as it does the most up to date information of the 45 featured ethical designers which I interviewed barely two months ago, and images from upcoming S/S 2011 collections. Straight from pen to paper, it’s much easier for me as an independent publisher to produce a book quickly. Having said that Eco Fashion is a great introduction to a whole host of ethical designers – many of which I didn’t previously know about – and features a much broader global outlook than my own book which focuses much more on the personal philosophies, inspiration and work practices of European designers. And anything which promotes ethical fashion design should naturally be applauded.
Which brings me to the blurb at the start of Eco Fashion from designer Geoffrey B. Small. “A book that for the very first time examines sustainability in fashion and a few of its pioneering practitioners, proponents and concepts is, indeed, a timely thing.” He writes. “Historic and courageous, its effort alone merits both immense applause and support for its author Sass Brown and its publisher Laurence King.”
If a mainstream publisher with huge financial resources (printing cheaply in China) deserves this kind of hyperbole, then I can only hope my small homespun efforts (printed at great cost in the UK) will attract a tiny amount of praise too. You can buy Eco Fashion here and Amelia’s Compendium of Fashion Illustration (featuring the very best in ethical fashion design) here – with a special pre-Christmas discount. AND it features fashion illustration too. It comes back from the printers on Thursday this week. I can’t wait…
Categories ,ACOFI, ,Ada Zanditon, ,Amelia’s Compendium of Fashion Illustration, ,Beautiful Soul, ,book, ,Christopher Raeburn, ,Eco fashion, ,fairtrade, ,Fashion Institute of Technology, ,Florence, ,Geoffrey B. Small, ,Henrietta Ludgate, ,Laurence King, ,new york, ,review, ,Sass Brown, ,Slow Fashion