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Birth of the Photo Booth


The inventor of the photo booth, Anatol Josepho

Everybody loves a photo booth. And that’s nothing new…

As a child, I fondly remember going to the arcade at the mall or fairgrounds… dropping in some coins, pulling the curtain, and sitting in the booth with friends and family to make crazy faces and leave with a fun strip of photos to keep the laughs going.

Today, the photo booth is not necessarily a “booth” at all… the modern, open style photo booth is a portable studio photography set-up that can boost the fun factor of any event, while capturing the moments and allowing guests to leave with a special keepsake favor to keep the memories alive. Modern photo booths range in style and quality - from simple webcams to professional DSLRs, from inkjet printers to dye sublimation printers, from an iPad or camera on a tripod to a modern touchscreen kiosk. New technologies are constantly being developed… animated GIFs, green screen backgrounds, slo-mo, light painting, 360 degree booths, etc. The possibilities are endless, photo booths have become a “must have” at every event, and there is no sign of the trend coming to an end!

But where did it all start???

The Father of the Photo Booth is a man named Anatol Josepho, a Siberian Jew born in 1894 who had a fascination with photography. He also had a bit of wanderlust… starting his incredible world travels at age 15 with his father’s blessing. His path took him from Russia, to Germany, to New York, to Hungary, to China, and finally to California in 1923. He then went to New York again with only $30 in his pocket, and struggled to raise $1000 to allow him to finally build his prototype for the “Photomaton,” and to apply for the patent in 1925.

Now, remember, that at this time we were a looooong way from digital cameras! The early 1900’s saw the introduction of the “Brownie” camera, the first “point and shoot” style 120mm film camera. In the previous century, photography meant using metal and glass plates to record the light in order to make images.

But Josepho spent 14 years working on his invention idea, a coin-operated booth that used a photo sensitive emulsion paper rather than film, and had chemicals inside to develop & print an 8 photo strip within 8 minutes. It was revolutionary, and when he opened up his first Photomaton, he had 2000 customers a day waiting in line to pay 25 cents for their photo strip! In 1927, Anatol Josepho sold the rights to the Photomaton invention for ONE MILLION DOLLARS… and the rest is history! By 1948, there were approximately 30,000 coin operated photo booths just in the US.


This man’s life is very remarkable for his time and inspirational for the vision he had and his determination to get through the obstacles and see it to fruition. But it is also incredible how far technology has come in such a short time. I have experienced a lot of changes during my own lifetime when it comes to photography. I remember the days of spending hours upon hours in the dark room breathing chemicals under the red lights. But I’m blown away to think that Anatol Josepho actually was still living during my early years, dying at age 86 in 1980!


OK, I promise this will be my last blog post with the title "Birth of..." LOL

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