Today’s photobooths have a number of different uses. From passport photos to party mementos, technology has meant that today’s advanced, interactive photobooths have maintained popularity despite the widespread use of digital cameras. We can find them in post offices and supermarkets, but also at increasing numbers of wedding receptions, parties and corporate events.

Things were very different when the first photobooth was patented back in 1925, and here in this article we’ve followed the illustrious past of what has come to be one of the most iconic machines of the 20th Century.

The state of the art machines used here at Booth Republic are a far cry from the first photobooth, invented by Russian Anatol Josepho nearly a century ago. As a teen, Josepho trained in a Berlin photography studio, where only the most affluent local individuals could afford to have their picture taken. Josepho had been inspired by the technology of cameras from an early age, and had dreams of an automatic machine which would eventually provide inexpensive photographs for the masses.

Inventor of the Photobooth

Josepho later moved to the Far East, opening his own photography studio known as “The Paris of the East” in Shanghai. He produced photographs for customers using the popular penny cameras of the 1920’s, which were inexpensive but not automated. Josepho later moved to the United States, where he sought financial backing for the photobooth blueprints which he had designed while in China. After much work he finally raised $11,000 (the price of five medium-sized houses at the time) to build the first prototype, which took 8 minutes to develop four photographs.

In 1925 Josepho opened the Photomaton Studio at Broadway, where only three booths attracted over 280,000 customers in the first six months. The invention was so successful that in 1927 Josepho sold his machines and patent to Henry Morganthau, founder of the American Red Cross, for the sum of $1,000,000 (or $12 million today). The deal was followed by the installation of over 30,000 booths in the United States alone.

As photobooths gained popularity across the United States and Europe, by the 1950’s the machine had found its way into the world of art and culture. Fans of classic cinema may remember Fred Astaire in 1953 film The Bandwagon, dancing into a Photomatic photobooth, posing for a picture then dancing out to greet co-star Cyd Charisse. Several years later in 1957 and artist Richard Avedon used a photobooth in his New York apartment, arguing that talent as a photographer shouldn’t be restricted by the camera at hand. Avedon captured memorable images of the likes of Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn for Esquire magazine, but it was pop artist Andy Warhol who really hit the headlines for photobooth art.

Between the 1950’s and 60’s, Warhol took wealthy clients to an arcade in central Manhattan, where they would produce photographs for his graphic design work in the many Auto-Photo booths. Warhol later challenged the world of commercial portraits by using Photobooth images of models for a feature in popular fashion magazine Harper’s Bazaar. In 1964 he would go on to use a photobooth for a Time magazine front cover on the theme of “American teenagers”, taking photos of the children of the magazine’s executives.

The artist even had his own Auto-Photo photobooth installed at the Factory, his New York City studio. Friends and followers-on took photos of themselves whenever they visited, even though Warhol himself was rarely present. However, he didn’t hesitate to develop hundreds of screen prints from these photos, making plenty of money in the process.

Fast-forward nearly a decade and the first colour photobooth was manufactured in the 1970’s, with many people beginning to use the popular Photo-Me booths that are found across the United Kingdom to this day. Photo-Me booths used digital technology and colour printing to quickly produce high quality photographs, making them popular for passports and driving licenses, as well as for capturing memories with friends. Here in the United Kingdom there are now three or four times as many photobooths as there are in America, and although they are still used for official documents like passports, they have also become a popular attraction for parties and other events.

Photo-me booth

Here at Booth Republic our photobooths have been hired as a fun and exciting attraction for wedding receptions, birthday parties and a variety of other events. Our photobooths are very different to the Photo-Me booths of yesteryear, including props like wigs and hats and the option to superimpose any background on a green screen. Guests are encouraged to have fun while taking their photos, and in the process trying out as many props and costumes as they like.

At Booth Republic we are at the forefront of photographic technology, and our machines have come a long way from Anatol Josepho’s first prototype. We use high quality dSLR cameras and touch screens that are easy to use, even after a few drinks. We’ll also add logos or personalised messages to the prints, and can even record short video messages for the happy couple or those who couldn’t make it.

Photos are printed on the spot, but they will also be found on our online album, making for easy downloading or sharing on Facebook and Twitter. For businesses or the more dedicated social networkers, if a suitable network connection is available then photos can be shared and tagged from the photobooth itself. We also offer the option to produce a guestbook from the photographs, a popular feature at wedding receptions where guests can choose a photo to accompany their message to the happy couple.

Are you thinking about hiring a photobooth for your next party or event? Why not contact Booth Republic today to discuss your options?