The first working photobooth was unveiled at the Paris World’s Fair in 1889. The concept immediately took hold sparking a flurry of patents and prototypes created over the next three decades.

Josepho and his famous Photomaton

36 years later, in 1925, our modern concept of the photobooth, the “Photomaton” arrived in New York City courtesy of Russian inventor, Anatol Josepho. Josepho opened the first photobooth in his studio on Broadway between 51st and 52nd Streets and crowds as large as 7,500 per day lined up to use the machine for $.25 each.

In the early 1960s, Andy Warhol embarked on a photobooth frenzy, utilizing the cheap photo arcades on 47th and Broadway in Manhattan’s Times Square to photograph his famous clients. In 1963 Harper’s Bazaar featured his images of models in photobooths and turned this former fun pastime into a serious commercial photography tool.

There is something about this century old technology that still captures the imagination. There are hundreds of celebrity photostrips available on the internet, including Jackelyn and John F. Kennedy who had their pictures taken in a photobooth on at least two occasions. In their 2011 -2012 winter collection ads, Chanel posed models in old dingy photobooths under the watchful eye of Karl Lagerfeld.

Old photobooths, like Warhol and the Kennedys used in the 1960s captured photographs of remarkable quality. They had a depth to them that is missing from more modern machines, but yet, they still draw millions of people each year. One author has even used a rented photobooth to create a book depicting dogs in photostrips.

The secret is in the photostrip itself. A playful and artful collection of four images stacked into a vertical line, each showing a different pose.

To achieve this look at home, without a photobooth, Carly Heitlinger from demonstrates on her blog how to make photostrips using Instagram, an application for smartphones that allows users to take square photographs and apply digital filters to them. This is a cool and clever way to get a photobooth look using photographs from your family collection.

To use Instagram to create your family photostrip, follow these easy steps:

  • Choose images of your ancestors where they are posed close together.
  • Using the Instagram app on your smartphone, zoom in on the part of the image you want to the be the focus of your photostrip. If there are several people in the photograph, you can move the field of view around to capture different people.
  • Then, choose the Instagram photo effects that you would like for your images (I prefer black and white or sepia tones)
  • To complete the strip, follow Carly’s instructions.


As a family historian, I’m constantly looking for interesting ways to “package” the many wonderful images I’ve collected. Putting together photos in different combination, whether it be in a photo book or as you see above in the photostrips, can tell a story, bring new life to an old image or just be a playful and different way to share family photos with your relatives.


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