The vintage photo booths scattered throughout Florence are a wonder. by producing black and white photos with decades-old analog cameras. But have you ever stopped to think what happens locally in the four and a half minutes it takes to develop your photos? Phoebe Hunt Talk to Matteo Sani about the wonders of old machines. these forgotten and the reason why he decided to save them
On some street corner in Florence You may or may not notice. FOTOAUTOMATICA Machines, photo booths that look like they came from somewhere else. That’s because they do. In fact, these machines are traditional photo booths. This is the kind you would use for your pre-digital passport photo. and some of them date back to the early 1950s. in 2011, Matteo Sani Aim to lovingly restore these old machines and bring them to the streets of Florence. He quit his job as a film set designer and took a vacation for a year. Decided to travel around Eastern Europe to buy a discontinued analog photo booth. Sani’s plan is between a project of passion and madness. And at first, making a living from this was the last thing on his mind.
“It’s a bit of a risk,” he admits. “I don’t know if I will actually be able to make these machines work when I find them and send them back to Italy. Or what do I do with them if I can?” over the course of one year. He traveled from Tallinn to Tirana. In a long and amazing adventure to find and discover these old machines to take home. in fact He found it all through word of mouth, in deteriorating states dating from the early 1950s to the 1980s. which during the Cold War did not update quickly So it took longer to replace the old analog photo booth with a new digital one.”
When Zani brought these machines home (He had collected five or six machines throughout the year) and opened them. He found that all the internal mechanisms were in a foreign language that he did not understand. However, the techniques were universal, and he was able to gradually manipulate the functions. For him, this phase of dissecting and restoring the machines was a labor of love. He finds out which parts are needed and what chemicals are needed to make them work. Of course, many of these liquids are no longer commercially available. All analog films will disappear in early 2010.
So I asked what really happened in those four-and-a-half minutes between the shots being taken and dropping into the dispenser with the hot air ejecting. To my satisfaction, Sari offered to unlock the device via dei Serragli and showed me how it works. inside photo booth It has a small dark room and a local development studio.as I hoped with traditional small robotic hands which took a strip of white paper and dipped it one by one in the development liquid. The liquid belongs to the slow-rotating carousel type. Each section is filled with processing liquid, toner, rinsing water. and different additives no negative images So the picture you received is the original one. If not typed, it will disappear forever.
In all machines, Sani fixed the mark. FOTOAUTOMATICA that is his trademark and But everything else, he stayed true to the original. “To me, these are more museum works than commercial ones. And I’m fussy about staying honest in all parts of their original work. it’s a work of art outdoor art You could say it was a tribute to this era in time.” The only electric part was the Flash.
After seeing how it works The four-and-a-half minute wait seemed remarkably quick. “Today it may seem like a long wait,” Sari agrees, “but back in the 50s, these were probably the pinnacles of speed and efficiency. This process is purely physical. so in those days It’s an incredible science.”
So when we have instant access to modern phone cameras Why are we willing to pay? Stand and wait for pictures that we cannot edit or filter. “Fotoautomatica These capture the truth,” Sari puts it simply. “What is priceless is that they capture the real, unfiltered moment in time. You cannot decide how it will be presented or when it will be conveyed. I don’t know when to shoot the machine will decide You insert a coin and allow it to tell your story. It was a surprise.” “We are all prettier in black and white. I can’t see any wrinkles!”
For Sani, these artworks are placed as works of art rather than a typical commercial project. His interest in photo booths in the cinematic era first caught on in a trip to France several years ago. when he saw a store inside the museum It wasn’t immediately clear if it was part of the exhibition or just for people’s entertainment. But this idea stuck with him. a few years later He read about a photo booth setup at the Venice Biennale by artist Franco Vacari in the 1970s, which gave him the idea to bring these to Florence.
“It’s a type of psychology, everyone has an ego, everyone has a side they want to present. I like to let the imagination run wild when people behind the curtain are alone in the hut taking pictures,” says Sari. He will see stories about other people’s unnamed photo booths. In the rare pictures the apparatus was swallowed or stuck in the dispenser. over the years Matteo has collected many of these anonymous faces. “I keep them all,” he said. “Of course, they are people’s personal property. I never did anything with them. But sometimes I look at them and wonder who these people are and what their stories are. It is priceless.”
What about Sani’s plans for the future of How about Fotoautomatica? Is there a way he can continue to spread the legacy of this art? “The photobooth museum doesn’t exist in Italy or Europe. as far as i know I would love to do this with other colleagues from around the world who share the same passion for photo booths. I need a small museum or just a space with three or four different photo booths from different eras. to show people the inner workings Not being too serious or arrogant. But I want to show people how they work and what’s going on with the internal mechanisms. and may inspire other experts who are more passionate about photography Of course, I had to work with management to see if that would be possible. But when the covid is gone I would like to start working.”
Do you know?
- If you lose money or photos FOTOAUTOMATICA It will refund you or send it to you if it gets stuck.
- You can use these images to ID cardUniversity or library card, etc.: Any document other than your passport or driver’s license.
where to find
Via dell’Agnolo | Via del Proconsolo | Station Square | Largo Fratelli Alinari | Via Santa Monaca | The Student Hotel