Do you remember the first time you entered a photobooth? Collector Katherine Griffiths always did since she was 11, and her fascination has turned to a lifelong love of found photos and old photobooth images that sum up her life. For 46 years since she began her Photobooth Journal in 1973, Katherine curated her own life through the images of friends, family, herself, and the world.
Read our inspiring talk with Katherine as she shares her love for photographic memorabilia.
Hi Katherine! Welcome to Lomography Magazine! Firstly, do you remember your first encounter with the photobooth?
When I was very young, I remember seeing a booth every time I went shopping with my mother to a shopping center in Chadstone, Victoria. I always wanted to try it, but unfortunately always asked at a time when we were on a mission to do something else.
I clearly remember the first time I managed to get into a booth, as it was on my first visit to that shopping center without an adult. I was with a primary school friend, Helen. I think she paid for the strip of four photos and gave me one as a gift. I was eleven or twelve years old.
I didn’t take another strip until I was in my first year at university. My interest in photobooth photography developed from there. As I began to travel and needed small photos for visas, passport or identity cards I took more and more strips to document my adventures and to swap with other travelers.
You have 46-year-old project named "The Photobooth Journal" and we are so amazed at this! The project began in 1973 and it's still on- going. We hope you don't mind us bringing this up, but you were diagnosed with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome. How did this project help you move forward?
My blog is Photobooth Journal – A Life In A Photobooth. I started it in September 2011 with a view to documenting all the photos I had taken of myself from that first example to the present. I am currently up to May 2003. I also publish photos from the second part of my photobooth journey, being the photos I have collected of other people from diverse parts of the world and from diverse eras.
I have a condition called Ehlers Danlos Syndrome. It is a complex connective tissue disorder that affects every system in the body. It causes widespread pain and many co-‐morbid conditions but the hardest thing to cope with is the fatigue it causes. This limits my social contact. I started the blog to help me cope with the isolation that comes with many chronic illnesses. The blog gives me a focus and has allowed me to form a community of people with similar interests while at home.
From where you are, do you still see some photobooths? What do you miss about it?
There are still two old “dip and dunk” photobooths that I know of in Melbourne. I live about an hour and twenty minutes away from the nearest one, so I an unable to visit as often as I would like. When I do get to one, I take between ten and twenty strips. I try to make myself look different from strip to strip. I take props with me and clothes that can easily be added to or removed in the confines of the booth. My photos have become more and more elaborate as I rush to take as many different photos as I can before the booths disappear forever.
May you share to us, what's the total count of images in your collection so far?
I have never counted them, but I think I would have at least 2500 individual photos in which I appear and probably about 1000 in my collection of found and vintage photobooth photos. I also have several dozen photobooth images of friends and family.
For you, what's the importance of a photograph?
Every photo is a small miracle to me. Even with the extraordinary proliferation of images today, I cannot take the photographic image for granted. When I use a photobooth to take pictures, the booth becomes my TARDIS. It makes me a time traveler like Doctor Who. Equally, every photo I own is a means of stepping back in time. I can travel back to the exact second the photo was made.
When I write about a photo I try to explore the sitter's face and clothing, or any items they are holding for clues about the circumstances that lead them to be in that booth at that time. I also look for clues to the personality of the sitter and their relationship to any other people who appear in the booth with them.
What do you usually do during your downtime? Any other project or plans in the future?
I try to treat my blog as my job. I’m unable to work, so it gives me a focus that is rewarding and interesting to me. I do most of my writing lying down, using
the Wordpress App on my iPad. While the blog is my “job”, looking at other people’s blogs is my leisure. I love the community on Wordpress and try to contribute to the blogs of others, as much as others contribute to mine. I also have a loving family with whom I enjoy spending time and a dingo—abrador cross, who is my personal trainer. He insists I go for a walk every day. That really helps with managing my pain but isn’t something I would be able to force myself to do alone. When I am well enough I enjoy socializing with a few close friends.
Learn more about Katherine's Photobooth Journal through the website.