A Man Who Brought Photo Booths To The Masses

In 1925, Anatol Josepho developed and patented the first modern photo booth, transforming photography, social spaces and society as a whole in the process.

It is rare to find a corporate conference, entertainment night or sporting event that does not have a photo booth fitted to help people capture moments and share them with their peers and friends.

This is the shape photo booths have taken as the medium has evolved beyond simply being a means to acquire passport photographs and has meant that these booths have returned to being the spontaneous, personal social hub that they had been for nearly a century.

Whilst the concept of a photo booth dates back to the 19th century, the modern history of the photo booth begins in 1925 with a Russian immigrant to the United States by the name of Anatol Josepho.

With a lifelong love of photography and a somewhat transient childhood, Mr Josepho moved from Tomsk to Germany, to Budapest, to Shanghai and finally to New York over about 12 years.

During that time he started to come up with the idea that would forge his place in history; a photography machine that would take and produce photographs automatically. Previous attempts had needed an operator to function.

By 1925, he had finally developed the idea close enough to start testing it on Broadway and thus the Photomatron was born. For 25 cents, the Photomatron would take eight photographs and automatically develop them in a process that would take around ten minutes to complete.

Whilst this is far more than the three minutes a modern traditional photo booth would take and especially the instant digital results one would get from one you could hire today, at the time it was so much quicker and cheaper than hiring a photographer that it was unbelievably successful.

In six months, this single booth was used by 280,000 people and it was clear that it was a success. The Photomatron Company was formed to create nationwide booths, Mr Josepho was given $1m upfront and guaranteed lifetime royalties, and infamous fancier Clarence Hatry opened a UK branch in 1928.