East Coast Photo Booth Review

With a thousand ways to capture a moment, what has kept photo booths from extinction? Digital cameras and camera phones offer instant results, but only the curtained booth offers protection and solace from the outside world. Regardless of being situated in the most public of venues, the actual images are taken in an intimate arrangement. Kept company only by an adjustable seat, the subject is at the mercy of a timed flash. The situation reeks of vulnerability and yet the resulting images offer little more than a hint of the individual’s facade.

Early photo booths became popular after World War I. They produced tintypes, cheap images that were popular despite their rustic and antiquated appearance. In 1925, a Socialist Siberian immigrant took the process to a new level by introducing the “Photomaton.” Anatol Josepho’s machine produced eight photographs within eight minutes. The first booth was in his studio at Broadway and 51st Street in New York City. Within two years, a group of businessmen purchased the rights for the equivalent of $10 million in today’s currency, with the intent to establish 70 similar studios on the East Coast.
The first wave of machines had attendants standing by to ease participants through the process. Each strip followed the same arc – the subject looked straight, left, right, straight. As time went on, the assistants disappeared and the shots became more informal. During World War II, the pictures became a popular means of communication between estranged soldiers and their sweethearts. By the 1960s, the pictures extended their reach into the art world. For example, Andy Warhol enlarged the images of celebrities of the era and used the portraits in his artwork.

The introduction of the personal camera, particularly by Polaroid, challenged the photo booth’s stronghold on portrait shots. Although the number of old-school black and white booths has dwindled throughout the years, they can still be found in the most unusual of places. For example, the Paris metro line boasts over 600 booths. Modernized booths, offering a color strip of four with borders or as individual stickers, can be found in the food courts of malls across America.

Forget about sticker booths and machines that sketch your portrait while you wait. When you want a novel way to capture a night on the town, make sure to plot your route around a photo booth. Luckily, some of the best booths on the East Coast are just a hop, skip and jump away from campus.

108 Avenue B. (at 7th)
NYC Bar, 21+

Appearances can be deceiving, but don’t let the corner of 7th Avenue and Avenue B trick you into thinking it’s a typical NYC bar. Like many of the bar’s attendants, 7b is simply a townie-bar stuck in the big city. Nestled among small mom-and-pop grocery shops and laundry mats, 7b lacks the glamour associated with the local scene. Fluorescent signs for different alcohol brands are perched haphazardly in the windows. The bar has more nicks than if the interior looks familiar, the feeling isn’t merely deja vu. 7b appeared in Crocodile Dundee, Scarface, and The Color of Money. The photo booth is located in the rear of the bar, beside a staircase. The back area is also used for discarded cardboard containers and trash bags so tread carefully. The machine has a 12 button display which lights up according to how much money is inserted. Since the slot accepts dollars instead of quarters, the lights turn on four at a time. Don’t let the shine distract you from settling into position before the first snap of the flash! The pictures print out within minutes, without any distortion. A strip of four is $3.

Otto’s Shrunken Head
538 E. 14th St. (Between Avenue A & B)
NYC Bar, 21+

For those who missed out on an island adventure over break, Otto’s promises a night of tiki-lounge pleasure. It’s a hidden treasure on 14th Street, blending in with the take-out joints and storefronts. The photo booth is located in a narrow hallway between the bar area and back room. The machine relies on tokens, which are available at the bar for $4. On some nights, the booth features a leopard print background and palm tree decal that will compliment your umbrella drinks. As you wait for your turn, waste some time at the “Big Buck Hunter II” game located beside the booth. The pictures print out quickly, but the second and fourth squares were either too light or too dark in comparison with the rest.


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