Friday, June 20, 2008

A Thousand Words

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but the images in our new book American Photobooth lead to a thousand questions. What prompted these people to slip into a photobooth to have their picture taken? What is their relationship with each other? Are they newlyweds or long-married? Are they always that happy, pugnacious or grim? Where did they have the photo taken? What happened to them in their lives?
This book, by photographer Näkki Goranin, starts with a history of the photobooth and its many incarnations, and then looks at the historical and cultural context of automatic self-photography. This is all very interesting, but the true beauty of this book is in the photos themselves: page after page of anonymous, caption-less portraits. The privacy of the photobooth and the lack of a human behind the camera seems to get people to open up, and these images are truly candid and intimate. There are couples young and old clinging to one another, kissing and smiling for the camera. There are groups of servicemen crammed into the booth, celebrating their short time on leave. There are people in work clothes (aprons, hats, uniforms) who apparently ducked into the booth on their lunch break. There's a wonderful photo of two young children with every hair in place, and you wonder if this was the only affordable way for their mother to send portraits to the rest of the family. There are also a shots of kids with much older relatives. Did Grandpa take his granddaughter to the state fair for the day, or to Coney Island?
These are wonderful pictures of people at a happy moment of their lives, inviting you in to share their good times. It's an irresistible invitation, and this book is sure to make you smile.

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