The photograph above is not Anatol Josepho. It is just one of the countless anonymous Photomatic photobooth photographs out there.Today marks the 115th anniversary of the birth of Anatol Josepho (March 31, 1894 - December 1980), Siberian immigrant and inventor of the photobooth. His patent for an automatic coin operated photographic apparatus was filed on March 27, 1925 and though similar devices existed at or around the same time it was Joespho who brought the photobooth to the masses via Times Square in New York City where people lined up for blocks to have their pictures taken.
Josepho’s is the classic immigration success story: he moved to The United States, struggled, found financial backing, sold the rights to his invention in 1927 for one million dollars (the equivalent of over $12.5 million today) and donated half the money to charity.
Over 80 years later photobooths still hold a special place in America’s culture. There is something about the intimacy and immediacy of the process, where individuals can be themselves and create an honest and telling self portrait, or where people can playfully act out and document their dreams and desires.
Photobooths today rely on digital processes rather than chemical ones but the basic idea behind the device and its enduring intrigue has remained relatively unchanged for all of these years making it a true cultural icon.
Most everyone has a photobooth story to tell. And all those untold number of photobooth photographs speak volumes. Lower Manhatten between the Jefferson Market Library and the lower east side probably has the highest concentration on photobooths in the city. Drop me a line to find out the closest one in your area.
For more information on photobooths check the Catalog. There are also some classic photobooth scenes in movies such as Amelie, Buffalo 66, and Superman III.