Coin-op Diary

This set of photos comes from a collection that has been split up and sold as separate lots on Ebay. On the occasions I see this happening, I try to buy all the lots to keep the collection together. Sadly, this time it would have proved too expensive, but this small selection captures the atmosphere of the album well.

This is a peer-group album compiled by someone who was very enthusiastic about keeping photographic records. The woman who appears in all these images compiled the collection. She may have been a fashion designer, as there are a good many shots of women in newly tailored clothes, posing outside seaside boarding houses and the like. If she was not from Blackpool, it seems to have been her second home.

If one compares these 1960s photo-booth shots with those taken by their data-hungry 21st-century counterparts, these earlier images cast a flattering light on the scene and bring a little glamour to a weekend’s entertainment – the drapes hanging in the background invite comparisons with the stage. Judging by the differing tonality and light, these photos may have been taken in several different locations.

The eyeline and gaze in photo-booth group shots can be interesting. There is a higher degree of absorption when contemplating one’s reflection; on several occasions one companion can be seen looking at the other mirrored in the glass. The short three- or four-second gap between each shot can chivvy spontaneity out of the sitter, and catch them absent, off-guard or clowning about for the camera.

The vast majority of photo-booth shots are simply portraits of solitary, expressionless people taken for the prosaic purpose of identification. But shots like these are proofs of bonding – love of the gang and youthful romance inform much more our sentimental characterisation of the photo-booth adventure.

Such a shared memory is this – perhaps it’s a rite of passage.

Nigel Shephard

Published by The Family Museum

We are an archival project about amateur family photography, based in London and set up by filmmaker Nigel Shephard and editor Rachael Moloney.

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