FLASH! ROXY'S PHOTO BOOTH DEBUT
There are only about 150 authentic chemical photo booths left in the United States. And at The Roxy Hotel, we happen to have a classic custom photo booth making its debut in our lobby. For just $5, have yourself a classic NYC moment and join the likes of Monroe, DiMaggio, Kennedy and company.
In 1925, the modern concept of a photo booth was introduced to the world right here in New York City by Russian-born photographer Anatol Josepho. On Broadway—between 51st and 52nd—Josepho’s Photomaton Studio featured three photo booths with attendants and attracted thousands of customers in its first month of business. For a quarter, you could get 8 photos in 8 minutes. This success of this booth created a craze that inspired photo booths to pop up across the country. The success of Josepho’s invention earned the young inventor about $12 million dollars (by today’s standards). Josepho had achieved the American dream and in the process, created a product that became synonymous with American culture.
Before photo booths appeared, most portraits were made in studios. The new, inexpensive process made photography accessible. For some, the photo booth was the only affordable way to document a special occasion—a first date, anniversary, engagement, a graduation… For 25 cents, you bought a memory and—for many people—these were the only photos they had.
Because there is no one taking the photo, subjects are often less self-conscious in the booth. Photographer Nikki Goranin’s aptly titled book, American Photobooth, documents the Americana aspect of the invention. Speaking to Smithsonian Magazine, she accurately observes: “It’s like a theatre that’s just you and the lens, and you can be anyone you want to be.”
In the 1960s, Andy Warhol began manipulating photo booth portraits in his artwork. Though—for a short period of time—Warhol had his own Auto-Photo booth at the factory, his subjects were often sent to a booth located inside an arcade on Broadway and 47th. For Warhol, the use of a photo booth perfectly fit his brand of consumption, celebrity and narcissism.
Countless pop culture icons have been captured in photo booths: Jackie O and JFK are featured in an iconic strip from the 1950s, the NYC beat generation frequented them, Yoko Ono and John Lennon included a strip with their 1969 recording, “Wedding Album”. Elvis, James Dean, Marilyn Monroe, Joe DiMaggio, Salvador Dali and Truman Capote all visited the booths in their heydey.
There is something quintessentially “New York” about the classic black & white (or sepia-toned) strip that the later-introduced color photos and digital prints just do not achieve. Check out The Roxy’s new booth for the classic experience.
Words by Hillary Sproul