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The photo booth machine was invented by a Siberian immigrant named Anatol Josepho.
Who was Anatol Josepho?
Anatol Josephewitz (later Josepho) was born in Omsk, Siberia, in 1894, to a prosperous jeweller and his wife. Anatol lost his mother at age three, and was quite attached to his father.
Even when he was a little boy Anatol’s dream was to travel around the world. He was especially fascinated by America and was eager to see the 'Wild West'. He also had a great interest in cameras that were making photography available to the middle class.
He wanted to learn everything about the camera and was enrolled in a local technical institute. At the age of 15 Anatol was impatient, and told his father that he wanted to explore the world. He went to Berlin with the money his father gave him. At Berlin, he happened to see the beautiful hand-tinted photographic portraits in a studio and persuaded the owner to train him as a photographer.
It was here that he learnt more about photography, developing and printing. To create images that would make photographs available to the common man, he evolved the idea of creating a more efficient, faster and less costly way of taking photos.
His fascination for America urged him to travel to the US in 1912. However, the 18-year-old could not find any job or support in New York, and had to return to Europe.
Anatol opened his own photo studio in Budapest with great optimism. He had already started to draw designs for an automated photo machine and experimented with photograph even though he was just 19. His aim was to create a self-operated device that would work with a coin. He was successful in his invention.
During the First World War Anatol was put under strict military surveillance as he was a Russian. It was at this time that he started working on a photographic paper that would not require a film negative to create beautiful toned images. For years he continued in his pursuit. He returned home to his father in 1920. But left again, and ended up in Shanghai in 1921.
Photomaton is born
It was here that the 27-year-old Anatol changed his Russian spelling of Josephewitz to Josepho and started his own studio – Josepho Studio. He soon became popular in China. However, he was still working on his invention, which later came to be known as Photomaton. In Shanghai, an outline was approximately drawn out and the notations for the chemical process cautiously prepared. But still he was not satisfied. He wanted to invent an automatic photographic machine. He went back to America to get financial support to realise this dream.
After a stint at Hollywood he came to New York City. Here he succeeded in raising the money to produce the first model. He also could find the right engineers and machinists to help him build his Photomaton machine.
1925: His Photomaton Studio was opened in September 1925 on Broadway where he was taking photos charging just 25 cents for a strip of eight. People started to throng his studio to get pictures clicked. Finally, Anatol realised his American Dream. Soon he found buyers for his photo machines and the Photomaton patent. He was offered $1m for the American rights and Anatol accepted the offer. He sold the European rights for the Photomaton to an English/French group the next year.
The Photomaton started a journey that took the bulky and heavy booth to every country on earth. Everyone loved making faces, squeezing in friends, and kissing in the booth.
Photobooths & Hollywood
Photobooths can be traced to Hollywood films in the early 1950s. In the film The Band Wagon with Fred Astaire, Astaire dances into a Photomatic. Esquire magazine, in 1957, dared Richard Avedon to produce photographs and dragged one of Mutascope’s art deco booths into his studio in New York. The result was the stunning images of Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe, Truman Capote and Ethel Merman.
Andy Warhol – the first art promoter of the photobooth
1950s: Warhol understood the photobooth as an effective and cheap camera in the late 1950s. He envisioned the sense of movement and colour an artist could achieve by combining different poses from the booth.
In the late 1950s, Auto-Photo tried to market the Model 11A, designed for prison mug shots.
1963: With his inclusion of photobooth photos of models in Harper's Bazaar, Warhol challenged the commercial portrait world in 1963.
Digital colour photobooths
1990s: Digital colour photobooths that used a computer to print strips faster came into existence in the 1990s, promoted by Photo-Me.
Photo booths are as fun as ever with today’s technology. They present a wide variety of options for printing, utilizing and sharing at all types of events.