Photo Booth Hire: The Strange Allure of Photo Booths – Part 3

Refurbished product

Photo-Me hasn’t manufactured a new photo booth in 15 to 20 years, Gulley says. All of Photo-Me’s new accounts get refurbished, customized booths.

James Photopoulos, co-owner of Photo’s Hot Dogs in Mt. Prospect, has had the same color Photo-Me booth in his eatery for 15 years. A lot of cab drivers come in and use his photo booth for their I.D. cards, he says.

“I don’t know how they find out, but you can see people are coming just to use the photo booth,” he says.

Fantasy has proposed putting a machine in Photo’s and is lobbying for one in his under-construction location in Palatine.

“These digital guys are trying to take over,” Photopoulos says, but he intends to stick with the vintage product, reasoning digital photos are “not true photography, if you will.”

“I guess I’m an old-school guy,” he says. “It’s like a little darkroom inside. The others look like the digital printout from a computer, and I just find from the darkroom, they’re more real, more genuine.”

In an age quickly growing accustomed to low-quality images from digital cameras in cell phones, photo booth artist and historian Nakki Goranin sees a continuing place for little closets of pictorial alchemy.

“They are not flat images. They are very rich images,” says Goranin, a Rogers Park native who is working on a collection of images and history of the photo booth called “Drawn Toward the Light.”

She’s not the only one doing a book: Babbette Hines’ historical collection “Photobooth” ($19.95, Princeton Architectural Press) has been a hot seller for its publisher, and in 2002, MTV anthologized its collection from the photo booth on the “Total Request Live” set in “MTV Photobooth” (Universe Publishing, $17.95).

And photo booths aren’t just in bars and arcades anymore.

Gulley says Photo-Me is now renting out units to wedding receptions, and movie directors Tim Burton and Quentin Tarantino recently bought booths for their homes. Wrigleyville bar Sluggers has ordered a Photo-Me booth, and Gulley has signed on a couple of local Kmarts. It’s not what it used to be, but it is growing. “They do require a lot of maintenance, but if they were placed correctly, I think there could be a lot of interest,” Goranin says. “It’s just something there could be a big renewal for.”

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