Photobooth at La Colonie, in Paris

I’m a fan of photobooths. There’s just something about them that I’ve always found intriguing. I remember going to the local mall with friends during lunch in high school, we would take heaps of digitally printed photo strips, we must have kept that booth in the middle of the food court in business. But even better than the digital booths, I discovered the simple joy of old-fashioned black and white film photobooths, a refreshing simplicity that is of another time. I like the imperfection of the photo strip. I mean, it’s a machine taking a photograph of a subject that is in the form of a tangible set of portraits, so you never know how it will turn out. Nowadays with digital photography and iPhones we are in complete control of the look & feel of memories we make in photographs, and it’s a dime a dozen… selfies, filters, retouching, it’s exhausting.

In case you didn’t know, the photobooth, dubbed ‘photomaton’, was invented and patented in 1925 in the United States by a Jewish Siberian immigrant (yup, another immigrant doing awesome stuff!!!), Anatol Josepho. Raynal Pellicer’s book, Photomaton, a French book about not only the early days of the photobooth but the artists that take the machine as a source of inspiration and experimentation, is also a great read. He writes about how automatic photobooths were placed in amusement parks and tourist zones and department stores, they were accessible to anyone, cheaper than a live photographer, and a portrait you could take alone or with a loved one, with a cigarette, a pet or a zany disguise. Moreover, the idea that when the curtain is pulled, one isolates themselves from the gaze of others is fascinating… the self-portrait in general becomes a subject of research that has spanned over a century. Oh, another great book on the history of the photobooth is American Photobooth, by Näkki Goranin, btw. Here’s an excerpt.

The first photobooth I discovered in Paris was at Palais de Tokyo, only a short walk from where I went to university, and where a Foto Automat cabine is to this day. I went to Berlin in Spring 2010 with some friends and randomly came across a photobooth in the middle of an empty lot, and I remember thinking it was just so rad. For my first Valentine’s Day with my now soon-to-be husband in 2010, I remember trekking up to Point Ephémère where there used to be a photobooth outside (which I remember thinking was just so awesome), to take a photo strip for him with some little messages written on pieces of cardboard, ha. I spent a summer in New York, at the start of this blog, really, where I’d go to all the photobooths I could find. They were often mysterious, there wasn’t much info about the stories behind each one.

Tout ça pour dire, I often found myself wondering, “Man, who are the awesome people behind the reparation of these fascinating machines, the people putting these booths out into our crazy world?”. Then I started to follow years back Foto Automat, after noticing the little sticker on the inside of their booths, the collective that give old photobooths a new lease of life in Paris. The Paris extension of Foto Automat (the first being in Berlin) has been around since 2007, thanks to a guy named Eddy, with whom I had the opportunity to meet over a cuppa coffee in Montmartre one day to learn more about it all. A little Q&A:

M: Où est-ce que vous avez découvert une cabine argentique pour la première fois ?
E: Je ne m’en souviens pas très bien car je devais être petit mais il me semble que cela devait être a la Gare de Chartres, probablement à la fin des année 80, une photo atteste de cette rencontre… ahaha!! Puis à Berlin, dans la rue en février 2005.

M: Comment vous vous êtes retrouvé dans la réparation des photomatons argentiques ?
E: Par hasard.. il se trouve que le développement de film super 8 dans une baignoire et la reparation de vieille moto soit une bonne école! J’ai rencontré FotoAutomat Berlin en 2005 et on s’est mis à travailler à l’atelier, aux portes de la ville, sans eau courante, dans un froid polaire.

M: Où se trouve votre cabine préférée ?
E: Celle-ci.

M: Votre collaboration Foto Automat le plus cool à votre avis ?
E: Iggy,.. personne n’est plus cool qu’Iggy Pop!

M: Quelque chose qui vous a inspiré récemment ?
E: À pleurer comme c’est beau.

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I must fully disclose that the list below of recommendations comes completely from my pal Liz, as these are the places she took me. Anyone who knows Liz knows that the gal has great taste.

What a fun city. I mean really. There are just good vibes, and I can’t quite put my finger on what it is specifically. Maybe it’s the proximity to the seaside, the charming tram ways that are weirdly unreliable. Or the pioneer startups that occupy the city, that entrepreneurial vibe. Or maybe that boozy karaoke on Monday nights at The Knockout. Or the fact that one of my favorite humans lives there. Maybe the hills, the fresh air and the year-round ideal-weather-to-dress-for climate, the donuts. A mix of it all…

We kept it cultural by hitting up the Walt Disney Family Museum on the first day of my 4-day visit. I was not so into the $25 ticket price but holy smokes I can’t express how worth it it is. Walt Disney, the man, not the company, is super interesting. There is a lot to learn about how he made Disney what it is today, and boy did he seem like a rad fella. We dined & strolled on repeat, bought Korean beauty products and sat in front of the Painted Ladies after hitting 10k steps at one point, and figurez-vous that were even lucky enough to experience the warmest of autumn days that was perfect for a stroll on the Ocean Beach.

Just a side note though, no breakfast out beats a breakfast at home with your bestie.

AGGREGATE SUPPLY // Industrial-chic boutique on Valencia St.
AsiaSF // Asian-fusion restaurant with drag dinnershows
BI-RITE CREAMERY // Ice cream joint
BOB’S DONUTS // Donut joint that opened in the 1960s
GENERAL STORE // Gift shop in Outer Sunset supporting local artisans
HOOK FISH CO.// Seafood joint in Outer Sunset
KEN KEN RAMEN // Japanese restaurant
KNOCKOUT // Dive bar with Karaoke on Monday nights. Wish this place existed in Paris.
NAPOLITO // Sustainable organic Mexican restaurant
PAXTON GATE CURIOSITIES // Wonderful shop of randomness on Valencia St.
SOUVLA // Lively Greek place with sandwiches & salads
TWIRL & DIP // Organic soft-serve ice cream
WALT DISNEY FAMILY MUSEUM // Museum dedicated to the Disney family and it’s amazing

I’m sorry I’ve been posting so little. I’ve been getting back in the game of documenting like I used to, to share on here experiences and places I find beautiful and charming and worth a mention.

I took my summer break later than most of my coworkers. It weirdly makes summer seam longer, and there’s something satisfying about leaving when everyone else is starting to come back. We went to Ile Tudy for two weeks. This place is magic, even if you never know how the weather will be. I know I’ve shared photos of this place before, because, well, I find this breton vacation home built by my boyfriend’s grandfather is just charming as fuck, and it is the epitome of what I would consider to be the ideal time off…. the perfect opportunity to disconnect and live in the present. The ocean out the front door, one big pièce à vivre for meals that last hours, game nights and good conversation with family and friends, and of course absolutely no schedule whatsoever. I pre-downloaded heaps of podcasts, brought a book or two and we traded phone and wifi habits for card and dice games.

Direction: la Pointe pour le mariage de Clémence et François. I lived in Normandy for a year of high school, but I had never been to THIS part of Normandy. This is all the way up there, Normandy. This part of Normandy you can bet you’re bottom dollar you’ll have zero cell service and when you do it’ll be a notification welcoming you to the United Kingdom, which definitely made for a good laugh. To situate what the French often call La Pointe (sometimes a general term, adaptable for other regions too, like Bretagne), but this one is up northwest of Cherbourg.

The sun was out, the skies were blue. The religious ceremony was in the sweetest little church in a town next to the seaside and what some call the smallest port of France, Port Racine. And then we followed the bride and the groom – who were in a rad & sporty vintage convertible – to nearby botanical gardens where the vin d’honneur and dinner took place over sunset,  it was all just dreamy as can be. The salty seaside air made our hair wavy and thick, and we feasted and danced with the newlyweds.

The next morning we drove up around the tiny roads along the foggy coast before heading back to Paname, it all felt very untouched, which I think most definitely adds to its charm. More Norman summer weekends? I think yes.

It’s that time of year, Paris fills up again. The frenzy of going back to school. As at the office the end of summer blues have come to the surface, I’m off enfin on my own summer break. Keeping my fingers crossed for an indian summer in Bretagne.

A few things worth sharing:

The Work We Do Podcast, perfect for all creative minds. Hosted by my rad friend Victoria.

I’m craving to learn new things lately. Ever get that feeling? For those in Europe, check out OpenClassrooms.

Getting my daily dose of news with NPR’s Up First.

Currently listening to Cheek to Cheek.

Paris is constantly changing. My Paris guide clearly needs an update. Will get on that.