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1990s

From Atlas Obscura:

The Twilight of the Analog Photo Booth

The effort to save a rare beast on the road to extinction.

On a recent Saturday morning in New York, the analog photo booth in the Ace Hotel on 29th Street was out of order. Inside the booth, which costs $5 plus tax for a strip of four black-and-white photographs (cards accepted), a piece of paper hung askew atop the mirror, level with the sign reading “EYE LEVEL.” “Sorry, I’m broken …” it read. “I’ll be better soon. XO, Ace.” Barely a dozen of these film-based photo booths remain in the city, a fact that would have been inconceivable as recently as the 1990s.

In September 1925, the crowds stretched around the block for the first ever Photomaton studio, 30 blocks north of the present site of the Ace Hotel, at 51st Street and Broadway. Each subject paid 25 cents, was bathed in flashes of light, and waited eight minutes for a strip of eight photographs. Eighteen months later, the New York Times reported, “Young Photomaton Inventor Will Celebrate His First Million.” In today’s money, this would be close to $14 million.

Anatol Josepho, the inventor of the "Photomaton" photo booth that debuted in September 1925 at 1659 Broadway in New York City.
Anatol Josepho, the inventor of the “Photomaton” photo booth that debuted in September 1925 at 1659 Broadway in New York City. Library of Congress/LC-DIG-ggbain-25079

The inventor, Anatol Josepho, was born in 1894, and came from nothing. Josepho, né Josephowitz, grew up a banished Jew in Siberia. At 15, he went off to explore the world, starting in Berlin, where he bought a Brownie camera and learned to take photographs. Later, he took it to Budapest, to Shanghai, and eventually to New York. In Harlem, in 1925, he raised the $11,000 required to build a prototype for the first curtain-enclosed photo booth—the cost of nearly six reasonably sized houses at that time. Josepho was charming, and obsessed with the project, writes photographer Näkki Goranin. Despite being a newcomer to the city, “[he] was able to talk people into loaning him the money, find the appropriate machinists and engineers to help him build his Photomaton machine, and be sought out by the leading industrialists in America.”

Josepho stood on the shoulders of decades of tinkerers who had been flirting with this technology since the 1880s, when a craze for vending machines of all kinds, including seltzer, chocolate, and postcards, seized Europe and America. Concurrently, photographic technology was developing at a galloping pace. Some early booths offered prints for a penny, others unreliable tintypes with near-unrecognizable subjects. Throughout the 1920s, the technology was becoming more and more refined—until, in 1925, Josepho patented the booth that set the standard for the next 90 years.

Two friends pose for a picture in a photo booth, date unknown.
Two friends pose for a picture in a photo booth, date unknown. simpleinsomnia/CC BY 2.0

Before long the photo booth was everywhere: malls, bars, airports, post offices, Fred Astaire films. In the United States, they were often owned by the company PhotoMe, says Tim Garrett, an artist who co-runs the site Photobooth.Net with friend and colleague Brian Meacham.

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From i-D:
photography Emily Manning 12 November, 2015

the changing world of midtown manhattan

Harvey Stein has documented starting shooting in Manhattan on his lunch break in 1974, and hasn’t stopped since.

New York subcultures are always linked to micro-neighbourhoods. Think punks at St. Marks Place, beatniks in Greenwich Village, and now, cyber (or health, or maybe just regular) goths in Bushwick. But you’d be hard pressed to think of a tribe whose village is Midtown. Shaded by skyscrapers, the commercial hub is mostly shared by suits and slow tourists who meet each other only when shuffling through stuffed sidewalks. This anxious, anonymous herd has captivated photographer Harvey Stein for over four decades.

Next week, Stein will release Briefly Seen: New York Street Life, the final volume in his trilogy capturing the Empire City’s enclaves. The series’ first two volumes compiled Stein’s decade-spanning work in Coney Island and Harlem — portrait-style images that chronicle each area’s eccentric communities and vibrant energy. Briefly Seen, however, is a collection of truly candid, frenzied imagery shot smack dab in the middle of Midtown’s most densely packed mobs.

Stein has photographed the same haunts from 6th Ave to 60th Street with the same Leica from 1974 – 2014, but he doesn’t date his images. The only visual clues viewers have to a photograph’s historical moment are subtle: the thickness of glasses frames, the width of lapels, the model of mobile phones — or their absence. We caught up with Stein to find out more about capturing New York’s unique pulse and pace.

How did you begin shooting in Midtown?
I actually worked on Madison Ave and 57th St for about four years before I decided to chuck it all and become a photographer. I would go out every lunch hour in the summer, leave my suit coat and tie in the office, hide my camera under my arm, go walk around and photograph. When the hour was up, I’d sneak back to work — kind of like Clark Kent. It felt like I had a split personality, like I was living a dual life. I was loving what I wasn’t doing enough of and not liking what I was doing too much of! I left that ad agency long ago, but have photographed the area ever since.

How have you seen the neighbourhood change over time?
Times Square has changed amazingly. It used to be full of drug addicts and sex shops. During the day in the 70s or 80s, people would walk from the Port Authority to their office in Midtown, but they’d do so very quickly and with their heads down. You wouldn’t go in at night at all. Around the mid-90s, that started to change, but I really wasn’t that interested in photographing that transition. From 42nd to 57th Street between 3rd and 7th Avenue, things have stayed is pretty much the same. There are modern, ecologically efficient buildings now, but by and large, I haven’t seen a lot of change in Midtown.…

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Leslie Lohman Prince St. Project Space, 127-B Prince St, New York City, SOHO
 DEBUT NYC EXHIBITION-OPENING NIGHT PARTY / Fri. May 29, 6-9pm
“Playground” Book Launch & Book Signing w/ PAUL ZONE
Guest Host: HOWIE PYRO / Superstar DJ: MISS GUY
Produced by TONY ZANETTA & KYMARA
“POP-UP” SHOW (2 DAYS ONLY): Gallery Hours May 30 & 31,1-6 PM
May 30, 4-6pm Gallery Talk & Book Signing w/ Paul Zone
May 31, 4-6pm Gathering & Book Signing w/ Paul ZoneThe 1970s was a time when the death of glam and the birth of punk collided in a celebration of glitter and grime, and teenager Paul Zone was there to photograph it. This debut NYC show, “Growing Up In The New York Underground: From Glam To Punk” will showcase 70 rare images displayed from his new book PLAYGROUND: Growing Up in the New York Underground. Featuring photographs of Blondie, Ramones, New York Dolls, Iggy and the Stooges, Lou Reed, Dead Boys, Suicide, T. Rex, The Fast, Patti Smith, Kiss, Mumps, Planets, Milk n Cookies and more, as well as musicians, artists and scensters Richard Hell, Johnny Thunders, Wayne County, Alice Cooper, Eric Emerson, Lance Loud, Stephen Sprouse, Christopher Makos, Anya Phillips, Cherry Vanilla, Arturo Vega, Anna Sui, Sable Starr, James Chance, Lydia Lunch, and even more!

Exhibition sponsored by Manic Panic

More info: Kymara@Kymara.com
Phone (207) 286-7399

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MY CITY BOOK CLUB | Crossing Broadway
Wednesday, May 20 at 6:30 pm

Frankfurt on the Hudson. Little Dominican Republic. The crack epidemic, the recovery, and gentrification. Though Washington Heights ranks as one of Manhattan’s most distinctive areas, its identity has never been fixed. Join us for a discussion of this singular American neighborhood in the next session of our expanding My City Book Club. Throughout the series, participants can explore significant new writing about New York, participate in lively discussions with authors, and purchase discounted books from our shop.

Robert Snyder, author, Crossing Broadway: Washington Heights and the Promise of New York City (Cornell, 2014)
Ray Suarez, broadcast journalist

Reserve Your Tickets
$12 and up
FREE for CIty Museum Members

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