Photobooth: A Biography – Meags Fitzgerald

I’ve become especially fond of looking for non-fictional graphic books when I browse the selection at the library, and so I did not hesitate in picking up Photobooth: A Biography by Meags Fitzgerald. I’ve never been bitten by the photobooth bug myself, though had the cost locally been cheaper I might have been (it was 50 kroner, or about 8 dollars back in the early to mid 90’ies when I was the right age). Meags Fitzgerald, on the other hand, was bitten, and hard. The book tells the history of the photobooth and some of the inventors who created and improved it. In paralell we get the history of Fitzgerald’s love-affair with photobooths, which spans at least a decade.

The art in this book is stunning. Both the loving depiction of different models of photobooths at their locations and the “copies” of photobooth pictures, both the author’s own and historic ones are a feast for the eyes. It’s also fascinating how such an oddly specific subject can work as a foundation for a book, and how something can be both very, very specialised as a hobby while dealing with something so incredibly mainstream (who over the age of twenty or so hasn’t had their picture taken by a photobooth?).

I must admit to being inspired to search out a photobooth or two. Unfortunately, chemical photobooths may be very hard to find these days. Not just because digital ones are much easier to maintain and offer more flexible options for the consumer (a choice of size of pictures, for example), but because some of the chemicals used are actually quite dangerous to handle, and so the EU (according to the book) were discussing banning them entirely in 2016. The chance of me finding a booth in Europe might therefore be slim. However, the website for enthusiasts, photobooth.net, which is also discussed by Fitzgerald, offers a location search, and while there are none listed in Norway, there are a few listings in places I might find myself this summer (pending the ongoing corona pandemic). If I do find one, I’ll be sure to share any pictures.

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