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American Photobooth Hardcover – February 18, 2008

4.9 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Like many other American inventions, the DIY photo-portrait machine was the brainchild of immigrants, each of whom approached slightly differently the challenge of putting a developing and printing lab, along with a good camera, in the same box with a sitting studio and making the whole shebang percolate at the drop of a quarter. Goranin briefly recaps the careers of those inventors, as well as notable exploiters of the technology once it was in production. They’re such an interesting lot that one wishes she had applied that last bit of polish to her prose (she is addicted to dangling modifiers). For many, the fact that the photo booth is still made, however modified, and gainfully employed will be the text’s big revelation. Meanwhile, the gallery of photo-booth portraits Goranin has amassed, and, as a photographer, contributed to, constitute the book’s big attraction. These faces of six decades are everything their autoportraitists could have hoped they would be—silly, joyous, friendly, loving, frank, naughty, honest—and charming besides. Spellbinding. --Ray Olson


"That a perceptive, dedicated, and sensitive artist like Nakki Goranin has rescued from oblivion so many amazing self-portraits created by amateurs confronting themselves in the fleeting privacy of humble photobooths is yet another miracle for which we can be grateful." David Haberstich" --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton; 1 edition (February 18, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393065561
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393065565
  • Product Dimensions: 10.3 x 8.8 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,349,480 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
The title of this book is perfect. What American hasn't had that moment in a photo booth waiting for the
flash of light, deciding second to second what pose to strike with or without accomplices? And then...
the wait for the magical strip of photos.

It's fascinating to find that this seemingly American invention was not invented by an American.
Even the history of the photobooth is filled with photos and ephemera about this "American" institution.
American Photobooth addresses this sociological phenomenon in a concise and fascinating way.
Who knew the depth of history to the everyday photobooth?

A great read and visual feast. A fabulous collection of photos, evoking the human spirit, its highs and lows.
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Format: Paperback
Aside from the nostalgia of this collection, American Photobooth is a fabulous coffee table book, a varied collection of black and white and color images from the photobooths that have contributed to this country's collective photographic history- literally the faces of friends, strangers, couples, service men and their girls soon off to World War II, a stunning compilation reproduced on high quality paper, the images prefaced with a detailed history of the photobooth.

It all began with the 1894 invention of a Parisian vending machine. Once the concept of the coin-operated vending machine was embraced by an evolving popular culture, these booths became a favorite pastime, "the ultimate pedestrian art". Over the years the concept developed, along with techniques to streamline the process, photo strips available to customers for twenty-five cents. A number of entrepreneurs contributed to this emerging art form that could be found in storefronts, department stores and virtually any place one of these booths would fit. The technology progressed with the times, from a "plumbless" machine that no longer required a water supply to various chemical paper treatments that allowed quick-drying, cost-efficient results.

Over the years, booths were refined redesigned and updated under a series of names: Photomaton, Phototeria, Mutoscope Photographics, Photo-Me USA, Tru-Photo and Photo-Dome, through a number of innovative family-owned enterprises appearing everywhere, including the Depression. By the 1970s color strips arrived; by the 80s chemical photobooths were nearly phased out. The first art promoter to use the photobooth, Andy Warhol made the images part of the American artistic lexicon.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Consider what is implied in these marvelous photos. First, note that there are many formal portraits of Blacks. There was no portrait studio in their part of town and 'White' studios did not want their business. Also, since the 'photographer' was a machine, the 'subject' did not have to worry about bigotry on the part of the of the person behind the camera. They used the only resource they had to record themselves. Also, since the 'photographer' was a machine and the photobooth resembled a confessional, the person inside was, one could say, in a state of grace and totally in the moment. You could do or be whatever you chose-which is why the doors were replaced by curtains-and only a select audience would see the results, but you only had thirty seconds to decide what to do or be-which called for spontaneity. One could write a book on the sociological, psychological, historical, etc. layers in these photos or one can simply marvel at them and consider the mysteries contained in these do-it-yourself masterpieces. The subjects got the best of both worlds. They have been preserved for posterity but with their anonymity intact.
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Format: Paperback
I love this book. Aside from the social history of photo booths, this book delivers with an amazing and offbeat array of ultra-personal "self portraits". We all know the feeling - Ducking into the booth, arranging ourselves on those silly little stools that spin, deciding if the awful green curtain behind us is "needed" or not, putting on more lipstick (nah, too much....then wiping it off again. Well, maybe just a little more)and then being shocked once-twice-thrice-four by the bright lights. Waiting for the little curl of photos to silently drop, and then that breathless first peak. Is this really me? Is this how I look? Is this how I look TO THE WORLD? There are many singular images in this book - each reader will find their favorite - but I especially loved a photo of a young couple, ardently kissing for the camera. Details abound: his lacquered hair is combed into swirls, his collar buttoned all the way to the top, his nose a bit snubbed and cute -- She wears a notably-frilly blouse with a lace collar and flirty black ribbon bows at the collar AND cuffs, red fingernails, her dark hair swept away from her face into an up-do, a rather ethnic face; a mature beauty compared to his student-like looks. Even better, we are treated to an inscription, in ink....."Jan. 3, 1944. Day before he left." Everytime I look at this image, I long to know......What happened? Did he come back? Did she wait for him? Did it all work out? What other photos did they take that day? Did he keep one also, and did it have an insciption?
Treat yourself to this book, and allow yourself to succumb to the endless stories inside - those that are documented, and those that you will find yourself making up.
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