How many of us remember the photo booths that dotted the urban landscape of the fairly recent past? How many of us think about them with nostalgia, sometimes remembering group photographs sprinkled with laughter, grotesque facial expressions, or memories of those who were leaving on long journeys, perhaps not to be seen again for a very long time? The winner of the 2015 Doug Wright Spotlight Award in Canada, Photobooth: A Biography, follows author and illustrator Meags Fitzgerald’s ongoing journey with these ephemeral relics in an illustrated account of photo booths that once were widely available in bus depots and shopping malls.
Fitzgerald’s historical and autobiographical hybrid documentary begins in Edmonton, Alberta as a high school student and continues as she discovers others worldwide who are equally fascinated with the medium of photo booths that is quickly facing extinction. She interviews international artists, collectors, technicians, and museum curators as part of her exploration, with realistic yet tender illustrations of the people and their booths in textured, black and white images. Many of Fitzgerald’s images, carefully executed renditions of actual photographs, offer readers a glimpse into her own level of devotion and research. Her writing is factual with numerous references to technical and historical data, yet at the same time, it is warmly personable and honest. The research and memoir comes alive through both her text and her illustrations, but the page layouts deserve much of the credit for the overall success of this title. Several pages of notes and a bibliography of selected sources round out the package.
Fitzgerald has created a book that celebrates not only her home country of Canada but also offers a connection to the wider world through a well-established respect for history, fervor for these vestiges of the quickly-changing technological landscape, and strong friendships that are formed along the way. It would be superb if we could all celebrate our own fascinations as successfully as has been done here.
Photobooth: A Biography
by Meags Fitzgerald
Conundrum Press, 2014
Publisher Age Rating: 16+