For more on American Photobooth check Seesaw, the blog from PSAW
Link to articles and images about American Photobooth at Seesaw blog
February + March, 2008
Nakki Goranin: American Photobooth
Burlington photographer, anthropologist, folklorist and photo historian Nakki Goranin presents an exhibit of photo booth images. The exhibition coincides with the publication of her book, American Photobooth, released in February, 2008, by W.W. Norton, with an introduction by David Haberstitch of the Smithsonian Institute.
In additon to historical photobooth images, Goronin has included some of her original art work based on photobooth pictures.
American Photobooth has already been written about in The New Yorker and The New York Times, and is sure to be one of the best photography books of 2008.
American Photobooth and Nakki Goranin
Burlington Free Press
by Susan Green, November 22, 2007
Although no children are involved, Nakki Goranin shares her home with 3,000 orphans
Orphan is the term she uses to describe anonymous images. The Burlington resident has searched auctions, flea markets, antique stores and online for orphan pictures with a particular birthplace: photobooths. They serve as time capsules of diverse but rarely identifiable people captured in various poses.
It is impossible to know who the subjects are in most cases explains Goranin, a professional photographer for almost three decades. There are usually just notations like, "I love you, Joanie" or "To my best pal."
Along with her historical account of the once-ubiquitous mechanized devices, 220 of these small snapshots will appear in Goranin's upcoming book American Photobooth, of which W.W. Norton & Co. plans to publish both hardcover and paperback versions in February.
With an introduction written by David Haberstich, a Smithsonian curator of photography, the 224-page tome reveals happy, stern, wistful, goofy or blank facial expressions. Many images convey specific occupations, familial relationships, romantic entanglements and outlooks on life.
Goranin's manifold cast of characters albeit none from Vermont, encompasses a Gloucester, Mass., fisherman smoking a pipe; a black soldier with an Asian lady friend; an American Indian short-order cook; a 1950s Hollywood B-movie star kissing her young son; a drum majorette; Latino teenagers; a bespectacled elderly woman with a fox fur around her neck and live dog on her lap.
"I wanted to include everybody," Goranin says."That's what photobooths were for. " The first photobooth, promising eight clicks of a hidden camera for 25 cents, was installed on Broadway in New York City during the mid-1920s. About 500 shots in Goranin's collection date back to that period; her orphans are primarily from the 1950s and earlier. Some of these souvenirs came in strips of four, others two at a time. The price steadily increased, but never came to more than a few dollars.
While hairstyles and fashions changed, the coin-operated machines remained relatively similar for about 60 years. In the 1980s, however, photobooths were able to produce color portraiture, which many people favored over the original black-and-white. And wet chemistry was the standard developing process until the advent of digital technology in the early 1990s.
"Digital just doesn't have the same power or excitement for me," Goranin notes. "I own three vintage photobooths."
The oldest one, made by hand in 1934 for a carnival, was essentially a faux photobooth. Carnies wanted to cash in on the popularity of the new-fangled invention, so unbeknown to the public someone actually operated a camera behind the glass.
Now and then the genuine kiosks boasted decorative backgrounds, but Goranin's extensive research into the manufacture of photobooths has not turned up any references to that feature. These flourishes might have been ad hoc.
There's little she doesn't know about this phenomenon. Goranin spent five years crisscrossing the nation to conduct interviews, read through old newspapers, scour phone books, and interview workers from defunct photobooth factories.
Her efforts impressed Haberstich, associate photography curator at the Archive Center of the Smithsonian Institute's National Museum of American History." Nakki's passion for photobooths was unusual," he says. "I knew how she felt. I'm intrigued by them, as well."
Haberstich believes that photobooths have long been underappreciated. "Artists ridiculed photography when it was introduced in the 19th century" he contends," but society gradually accepted the notion that you could create art with a machine. Take it a bit further and the subject is, in fact, the photographer. This fits in the continuum of image-making. When you step into a photobooth, you create your own self-portrait."
And their affordability, accessibility and imperviousness to class distinctions seem downright democratic.
This common-man sensibility inspires Goranin, a Chicago native who majored in anthropology, folklore and fine-arts photography at Indiana University in the 1970s. She later returned to the school, concentrating on the same three fields but adding education to mix in pursuit of a master's degree. Between her two academic experiences, there were brief sojourns in San Francisco, Colorado and hitchhiking around Europe.
Finding the images
Goranin decided to compile photobooth shots for a book, and in 2002, her friend Steve Stinehour of Lunenberg suggested including historical text .He also introduced me to an editor at Norton, who said, "These images have universal appeal that can speak to people's hearts," she notes." What I thought would take two months has turned into a huge project."
Along the way, Goranin came upon treasures. Two young farmers, one with a melancholy look in his eyes, remind her of the rural folks that populated legendary photojournalist Dorothea Lange's visual chronicles of the Great Depression.
And Goranin encountered a few disappointments. At an antique store in Indiana, the proprietor said "In 40 years nobody has ever asked me about photobooth pictures. I just throw them away."
Already, the book's manuscript has prompted interest from unexpected sources. The prestigious International Center for Photography in New York plans to exhibit some of her collection.
Haberstich points out that the public initially flocked to photobooths because they were a novelty.It was one of the first modern examples of robotics, he adds, but when the novelty faded, the attraction became nostalgia.
For Goranin, photobooth pictures have a deeply personal dimension.
"These are one-of-a-kind, singular images that record people in an intimate manner," she says. "We step into their lives for one moment in time. I never get tired of looking at them, and they've changed how I see the world with my camera."
American Photobooth in People Magazine
People Magazine has just published this nice little piece on American Photobooth and Nakki Goranin. Yea!
For more news on Nakki, go to my blog. I've got everything posted over there.