The finest Polaroid photograph I’ve ever seen came from a photo booth

The finest Polaroid photograph I’ve ever seen came from a photo booth.


On this spring day in 1985, the year my friends John and Jim and I all graduated high school, we were out being silly together and came upon photo booths at a mall. One was a traditional four-photo-strip booth, but the other promised Polaroid prints. I’d never seen a Polaroid photo booth before, and I’ve never seen one since. We piled in, I fed it a buck, and it took this big, beautiful photograph. (I’m on the bottom with the cheesy grin.)

Check out that sharpness! Dig those great colors! And those colors lasted — I scanned this 32-year-old print only recently.

If only I could get this kind of color and sharpness from my integral-print Polaroid cameras. I’ve shot several, including the vaunted original SX-70, and I’ve been dramatically unimpressed with the prints all of them created. How did this photo booth do such solid work?

But my disappointment with Polaroid photography isn’t really the point. I really want to tell you about a blog that features photobooth photographs.

Katherine has loved photo booths since she was a girl in the 1970s. She steps into them whenever she finds them — a rarer and rarer occurrence these days. And she collects forgotten photos from booths. And she shares them all on her blog, Photobooth Journal.

Today Katherine shares this photo, plus some other photobooth photos of this goofy trio and of just me, on her blog today. Click here to go visit and see!


19 responses to “The finest Polaroid photograph I’ve ever seen came from a photo booth”

  1. Joshua Fast Avatar

    SX-70 Film from Impossible always has that soft, dreamy look. I think it’s just the character of the film. I get great sharp results from their new 600 formula, it’s almost on par with the original. I think by their next iteration it will be.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Well, I don’t like that soft, dreamy look! I don’t remember whether I still own a 600 camera. If I do I am tempted to try their latest film for it.

  2. bodegabayf2 Avatar

    Lately, I have been considering sending my SX-70 out for refurb. There are some former Impossible Project folks who have opened their own shop to restore these cameras. And I have heard that the film from IP has improved. Sadly, I never shot any of the original Polaroid film stock when it was in production.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      What is it about integral-print instant that is so compelling, despite disappointment after disappointment with it?

      1. bodegabayf2 Avatar

        I don’t know. About once a year I will get the bug and shoot a pack. The results always make me put the camera back on the shelf again.

  3. Photobooth Journal Avatar

    Thanks for the link to my blog and once again, thanks for the scans. I have had a request for a more recent booth photo of you, Jim. If you have one, please could I get a scan of it?

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      My wife and I did a digital photobooth a couple years ago, at a wedding. I don’t know if I have that print or she does. (Long story, but we are only recently married and haven’t merged households yet.) t might take some time to dig it up, but I’ll try.

      1. Photobooth Journal Avatar

        Thanks Jim. I will keep my fingers crossed.

  4. DougD Avatar

    Once again, I’m glad that I didn’t have to wear glasses in the 80’s. Braces in the 70’s was bad enough.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I had both.

      Yeah, glasses in the 80s: Because your cheeks need corrective lenses too.

  5. Sam Avatar

    Jim, you might be right, I’ve never seen a photobooth pic with this quality. It looks great!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I’ve never seen *any Polaroid* photo with this quality!

      1. Sam Avatar

        Haha that’s the bigger, and I think somewhat overlooked point! But I did get what you’re saying, first time at bat!! :-)

  6. alessandrae Avatar

    That is such a good polaroid photo! I currently use the new fujifilm mini instax 8 that seems to be rapidly rising in popularity. It’s pretty much the highlight of what my blog is about :) I’ll definitely check out Katherine’s blog!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Thanks! I’m curious about Instax. But I have so many other cameras to shoot first!

  7. The-lomographer Avatar

    Photo booth of that era used 339 or 339+.

    I put a CB-33 back on my 600SE but have never found any useable 339.

    Bigger and better than Spectra

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Hmmmmm. My understanding is that 339 was a wide (rectangular) film. The image from the Polaroid Face Place booth was the size of a normal SX-70 or 600 print.

  8. Martin Wright Avatar
    Martin Wright

    I used to assemble those FacePlace booths for Polaroid back in the Fall of 1977 in Woburn, MA!!!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      How cool is that! This was the only Face Place I ever saw.

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