Vernacular Photo Tuesday: Photo Booths!

I’m kicking off a new series here on the blog today, every Tuesday I’ll be sharing a selection of my vintage vernacular photos, starting with a sampling of my photo booth images. The allure of photo booths has endured over the decades, luckily there are still over a dozen old fashioned black & white photo booth machines here in Chicago, they are mechanical/analog rather than digital. My fascination with photo booths started after viewing the movie Amelie, at the time I still lived in my hometown of Fayetteville, Arkansas where the only photo booth was an ’80s colour one in the mall that I’d never tried. It wasn’t until I moved to LA in 2003 to go to school at USC that I took pictures in an authentic machine, I believe this experience was at The Standard Hotel in downtown LA.
Since that time I’ve started a tradition of taking self portraits every few months or so, usually at Quimby’s Bookstore in Wicker Park. The images above and below were taken today at the Rainbo Club in Ukrainian Village; the machine was broken at Quimby’s and this was the next closest machine. I actually prefer the quality of the Rainbo Club machine over Quimby’s but it’s a little awkward to just go into a bar to take pictures! Rainbo’s machine is actually rather famous, Liz Phair used photos she took there for the cover of her album, Exile in Guyville.

Sadly this is not a photo booth image but she served as inspiration for the outfit I wore today– the jaunty hat and leopard collar are killer. I believe this image is from the late 1940s and it is hand tinted (a black and white image that has been colored by hand).


It’s going to take me a while to scan my collection so for now here is my all time favorite photo booth strip, mainly because I love the girl’s cateye glasses. It’s also the only Asian American photo booth I’ve ever come across, it seems to be quite unique. Albert was the one that originally unearthed this strip, he has several more of her in his photo collection.


While I’ve been collecting vintage vernacular photography for the past 5 years or so, my collection escalated when I met my friend (and thrifting partner in crime) Albert who sells vintage photographs for a living. He also co-owns The Found, a stationery and card company that draws inspiration from ephemera like matchbox covers, mugshots (!) and old slides. My favorite, of course, are The Found’s new line of photobooth cards.

All of the photo booths used on the cards are from Albert’s personal collection so you can imagine the treasures he has collected over the years! There is a lot of detail captured in each card and the star you see is a little foil sticker reminiscent of the ‘gold stars’ used in elementary school.
I often have the pleasure of previewing new products and it’s exciting to see how the cards evolve from their initial idea phase to holding the finished card in my hand. I’ve also worked for The Found when they had a booth at The Renegade Craft Fair last summer and the Christmas version of Renegade.


The Found’s cards are found in stores across the country, including Paper Source. It’s especially fun when I go into a local gift shop and see one of their cards on the shelves, it’s like knowing a celebrity!

The back of the cards are as detailed as the front. You can also feel good about buying their cards as they’re printed in the USA and are made with recycled paper and soy-based inks. If you can’t find them in a store in your town then you can buy The Found’s cards on etsy too!
Next time I’ll be posting more of my personal photo booth collection and sharing some of the history of the process.

Comments 0

  1. sweet..I often thought how nice it would be to have a photo booth party…set one up and have friends take their pics…way cool…I can remember when I took my first photobooth pic…at Kmart…doh!!

    looking forward to seeing the pics you find 🙂

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