This post is for all the vernacular photograph collectors who buy our photobooth images, but have never actually seen the inside of a “modern” analog photobooth. You know all those mangled and bizarre photobooth strips that we post on Instagram? Well, we want to (briefly) explain how those happened. In short, inside the photobooth there are “arms” aka “carriers” that ride on a “spider” carousel via a transmission system that spins the assembly. (See video of the arms spinning and dipping in the tanks). A photobooth strip has to go through the cycle of rollers and tanks to create a fully developed photograph. At any point during the process an arm or roller can get caught up for a variety of reasons. When that happens, often the photobooth strip ends up on the floor of the booth, jammed up in the delivery unit, or left floating in a one of the chemical tanks. The photobooth technician who fixes the issue should clear these errant strips from the machine, but often the tech ends up tossing them back inside the booth or in a random tool box, etc. What is the deal with all of those crazy accident abstract photobooth strips? Well, that’s usually the result of unexposed or partially unexposed paper - once again - on the inside floor of the booth getting dripped all over with chemistry. Or, it’s the result of multiple photos sticking together, or the door half open - or a thousand other awesome random combinations. -The list goes on of possible art making disasters.
So, you may ask, “Ok, but what is with all the photos of single hands and random objects?” Do you recall those jammed photobooth strips we just described? Often it takes MANY MANY MANY test cycles to isolate and figure out what the hell is causing that jam. And of course, once you fix the problem, you still need to bulk test to be sure the issue is truly fixed. Most photobooth techs have had their photo taken so many times that they are sick of it. Or, more often than not, it’s just way faster to toss your hand in the frame rather than hop in and out of the photobooth. Remember, they are there to fix a problem and get back on the route, not for fun (usually).
To provide a bit of insight, ARCHIVE (www.archive7947.com | @archive7947) is just one part of A&A Studios, Inc (@aastudiosinc) created by me, Anthony Vizzari (@archotgraphist). I have been collecting and selling found vintage photographs for over 26 years (clearly – collecting more than selling). When I started A&A Studios and got into the analog photobooth business, I had already been collecting vernacular photography for over a decade. Since 2007, A&A Studios has bought and sold hundreds and hundreds of chemical dip and dunk photobooths. In the early days, we would buy EVERY analog photobooth that we could and run trucks around the country picking them up. From Ocean City, MD to Ft. Lauderdale, Dallas, Nashville, Detroit, San Diego, Idaho, New York, and the list goes on, we dragged countless booths back to Chicago. As we started to tear booths apart to restore them, I would inevitably find some long lost photobooth photos in the process. So, as a collector, imagine my excitement when I started to find hidden treasures in these old photobooths!
As a passionate collector, I saved every one of those photos – even the little scraps that people tore up and left behind. I saved these photobooth relics because they held some bit of magic. To me, they were hidden secrets; like the young boys giving the middle finger in a spontaneous gesture of defiance, hiding their act in the photobooth vent so their mom wouldn’t find it. There are the unflattering photos deemed unworthy torn to shreds, the unenthusiastic technician, and the jammed photos, never to be seen by the photobooth patron, but left inside, like a crusty time capsule. Some of these photobooth photos date from the 1940-1990’s, way before A&A Studios got into the photobooth business. Others are from our own tenure, including techs that have worked for us, photos lost in Chicago bars like the Empty Bottle, or those random accidents that just ended up as part of the photobooth repair process.
Like most collectors, the thrill is in the hunt! When you find others like yourself who relish in these finds and happy accidents of art, you instinctively want to share. I have loved collecting these photobooth images, and will continue to do so. But for me, my passion is truly is in the analog process, finding these hidden photobooth secrets along the way – but I don’t want to keep them all to myself. With many of the world’s photobooth’s inaccessible due to lock-down right now, it seems like the perfect time to share.
PHOTOS: A 1940’s Model-9: note the top vent in the restoration photo – we ALWAYS find photos hidden in there. Also, there is a 1960’s Model-14 “Wing-Top” that we restored. In this one, we open find photos tucked behind the signs and mirror.