Brighton Early 20th C Photography - Automatic Portraits

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Automatic Portrait Photographs

 The Sticky Backs Studio -  Spiridione Grossi - Abraham Dudkin - Anatol Josepho and the Photomaton

 
[ABOVE] The Brighton photographer Abraham Dudkin (1876-1949), proprietor of the Sticky Backs Studio at 54 North Street, Brighton, pictured with his son Lewis Stanley Dudkin (born 1909, Brighton) in a series of "automatic" photo strips produced around 1913.
 

Spiridione Grossi and the Sticky Backs Studio in North Street, Brighton (1910-1911)

[ABOVE] The title that appeared on the "sticky back" portraits photographed at Spiridione Grossi's studio at 54 North Street, Brighton. Grossi explained in a later patent application for "improvements in strip printing", that his camera contained a "special fixed negative giving the name and address of the photographer"

Spiridione Grossi (1877-1921)

Spiridione Nicolo Grossi was born in Liverpool during the First Quarter of 1877, the eldest surviving son of Margaret Hearne and John Baptiste Grossi (c1836-1895), an "outfitter" and former photographer of Paradise Street, Liverpool. John Baptiste Grossi, Spiridione Grossi's father, was born in Austria around 1836, but by the time he was thirty he had settled in the English port of Liverpool. During the mid-1860s, John Baptiste Grossi worked as a professional photographer in Liverpool and in 1874 he married a young local teacher named Margaret Hearne (born 1854, Liverpool). John and Margaret Grossi produced a number of children and two of them, Spiridione Grossi and his younger sister Stella Marguerite Grossi (born 1883, Liverpool) went on to become professional photographers.

In the 1901 census, Spiro Grossi, is recorded as a twenty-four year old "Photographic Printer" in the city of Liverpool. By 1907, Spiridione Grossi had opened his own photographic portrait studio in Liverpool. Trade directories published in 1907 and 1908, record Spiridione Grossi as a photographer at 107a Bold Street, Liverpool. Grossi then moved to Manchester, where he operated two photographic studios, one at 5 Marsden Square, the other at 84 Market Street. Around 1910, Spiridione Grossi moved south and established a photographic portrait studio in Brighton at 54 North Street.

Spiridione Grossi operated a photographic portrait studio at 54 North Street, Brighton between 1910 and 1911. Spiro Grossi's studio at 54 North Street traded under the name of The Sticky Back & Post Card Studio. Grossi's establishment in North Street, Brighton mainly produced studio portraits in the popular postcard format (photographic portraits printed on cards measuring approximately 51/2 "x 31/2", specifically designed to be sent through the post), yet by 1911, Grossi's studio was also producing tiny photographic portraits called "Sticky Backs".

Spiridione Grossi's "Sticky Back" Portraits

In addition to being a photographer, Spiridione Grossi was an inventor and by 1910 he had devised a mechanical means of producing small photographic portraits on a strip of photographic paper. The reverse of the photographs were coated with a gum, which made the pictures adhesive when moistened. These small self-adhesive photographs became known as "Sticky Backs".

As a photo magazine explained in 1912, "A Stickyback Photograph is one that has adhesive matter spread on the back, which it is simply necessary to moisten and then stick the picture on the mount. 'Stickyback' is the name by which small gummed-photographs, not much larger than a postage-stamp, are known." [Photo-era Magazine, Vol.28, 1912]. The "Sticky Back" photographs produced at Spiridione Grossi's studio in North Street measured roughly 2 inches by 1 1/2 inches. What made Grossi's tiny "sticky back" portraits distinctive were that they were created mechanically on a strip of photo-paper that could hold up to six individual portraits. In general appearance, the small photographic portraits made at Grossi's Sticky Backs studio resemble the photographs produced by modern-day automatic photo-booths, but although the strip photographs were created with the aid of a mechanical device invented by Spiridione Grossi, the camera at the North Street studio was operated by a human photographer and not an automatic machine triggered by a coin in a slot. [ See below for an account of the Photomaton, a coin-operated automatic photo-booth, invented by Anatol Josepho in 1925]

Spiridione Grossi is believed to have devised an apparatus which took six small photographic portraits on a narrow strip of photo-paper. The backs of the small photographs were coated with a type of water-activated gum, similar to that used on postage stamps. These small adhesive photos, measuring approximately 2 inches by 1 1/2 inches. were generally known as "sticky-backs". The studio name "Sticky Backs" often appeared as a printed title on the photographic prints produced at Grossi's establishment at 54 North Street, Brighton.

We do not have a detailed description of the photographic equipment used at Spiridione Grossi's Brighton studio in 1910-1911, but we can gain an idea of the type of apparatus used to produce these narrow strip prints from an invention Spiridione Grossi lodged with the Patent Office on 15th May 1916. British Patent No. 108691, entitled "Improvements in Strip Printing Photographic Apparatus", describes a "travelling box", a mechanical contraption comprising of hinged flaps, a spring-roller, a winding cord, a manually operated pawl, a sprocket wheel, metal-bound spring boards, an "endless chain", a rotating drum and a set of retaining angle-pieces. According to the detailed descriptions and specifications of the "Strip Printing Photographic Apparatus" that Spiridione Grossi lodged with the Patent Office, his invention was designed to "produce, from cameras containing several negatives ... a large number of (photographic) repeats upon sensitive sheets of paper stacked in piles and arranged for intermittent feeding".

The invention Spiridione Grossi lodged with the Patent Office on 15th May 1916 was designed specifically for "enlarging photographs", yet the contraption described as a "travelling box" or "sliding box" which produced "a number of photographs" on a single strip of photo-paper was probably similar to the photographic apparatus employed at Grossi's studio in Brighton's North Street, some five years earlier. In the provisional specification for his "Improvements in Strip Printing Photographic Apparatus"  (British Patent No. 108691), Grossi wrote :" My camera takes six negatives side by side" and "a special fixed negative giving the name and address of the photographer is fixed in the camera ". Below the multi-negative camera was a "travelling" or "sliding" box, "carrying a series of piles of sensitive paper, in long lengths extending the entire length of the box"... These sheets are preferably of a length of four or five or six photographs and a breadth of one." Grossi goes on to describe the mechanism by which the photo-strips are passed through the "travelling box" : "This box in my experimental device is slid from left to right, being propelled by a blind roller device and stopped at the right point for taking a set of photographs by a spring friction pawl acting on a rack with notches at regular intervals ... When the photographs are sufficiently exposed, the operator pulls the cord, the spring pawls slip out of their notches and enter the next ones, and thus a second length of the sensitive papers is exposed to the camera, and this goes on until the entire length of the sensitive paper in the box has been exposed." The "travelling box" contained six piles of photo-sensitive paper, each pile taking "about 150 papers to start with".

Grossi's apparatus incorporated a mechanical system "whereby a large number of (photographic) repeats can be produced at once, and time in manipulation is greatly saved". The end result was a series of photographic portraits on a single strip of photographic paper, identified by a photo number and the name and address of the photographer's studio. In appearance, the strip of photographic portraits produced at Grossi's Sticky Backs studio, strongly resembled modern photo booth photographs. However, the camera and "travelling box" were not operated automatically by some electrical machine triggered by the insertion of a coin. Grossi, in his descriptions of his "Strip Printing Photographic Apparatus" makes it clear that the equipment required the intervention of a human operator. Although some of the movements of the machine were automatic, at various stages of the process, the apparatus had to be "manually operated". For instance, the operator had to lift the pawl to "allow the box to travel one photograph length at each change of the position". The photographs themselves had to be exposed by the camera operator. The sliding shutter, which ran in a set of grooves, was "pulled out or pushed in by hand so as to expose or cover the sensitive paper". The sliding shutter was "pulled out by the left hand, while the right hand holds the blind-roller device". The human operator also had to pull a cord to enable the next length of sensitive paper to be exposed to the camera.

In many ways, Spiridione Grossi's Strip Printing Photographic Apparatus of 1916 was a primitive precursor of the first truly automatic photo-booth introduced some eight years later in 1924. The first steps in automated photography had been taken in the year 1889, when Mathew Stiffens patented an "automatic photography machine" and Monsieur Ernest Enjalbert demonstrated his coin- operated, automatic tintype machine at the Exposition Universelle, the World's Fair which opened in Paris in May 1889. The automatic photographic machines invented by Mathew Stiffens and Ernest Enjalbert produced photographic portraits on a metal strip (a ferrotype or "tintype"). Spiridione Grossi's photographic portraits were printed on narrow strips of photographic paper. The first automatic photo-booth, which produced several photographic portraits on strips of photographic paper, opened to the public in New York City during the Summer of 1925. The inventor of the automatic photo booth, Anatol Marco Josepho (1894-1980) created a machine that produced a strip of 8 good quality photographic portraits in 8 minutes. [ See below for an account of the life and career of Anatol Josepho and the Photomaton, a coin-operated automatic photo-booth he produced in 1925].

Spiridione Grossi operated the photographic portrait studio at 54 North Street, Brighton for a short period between 1910 and 1911. Spiridione Grossi is listed as a photographer at 54 North Street in Kelly's Directory of Brighton, Hove and Preston, Kelly's Sussex Directory and the 1911 edition of W. T. Pike's Brighton and Hove Directory. However, when the census was taken on 2nd April 1911, Spiridione Grossi was residing in London, recorded as a patient of Dr Michael Longinotto at 10 Russell Square, London. By this date, The Sticky Back & Post Card Studio at 54 North Street, Brighton had been acquired by Abraham Dudkin (born 1876, Nizhny Novgorod, Russia).

In April 1913, Spiridione Grossi was no longer working as a studio photographer and appears to have been concentrating on various inventions in the field of automatic photography and electrical engineering. A newspaper article, published in May 1913, states that Spiridione Grossi had been conducting "business in automatic electrical apparatus in several places, including Liverpool, London, Manchester, Brighton, and Brussels". There is evidence from inventions patented by him in 1920 and 1921 that Spiridione Grossi was devising mechanical and electrically powered games that were then a common feature of amusement arcades. (Grossi's patented inventions describe "race games" involving "teddy bear figures climbing poles" and model horses running round a race track). Although he was conducting business in Liverpool, London, Manchester, Brighton, and Brussels, during this final period of his career, Spiridione Grossi resided with his widowed mother and two younger sisters at 77 Paradise Street, Liverpool.

Spiridione Grossi died in Liverpool in 1921 at the age of 44. [Death registered in the district of Liverpool during the 2nd Quarter of 1921].

Spiridione Grossi's "Sticky Back" Photo-Strips

[ABOVE] A portrait of a grey-haired woman photographed at  Spiridione Grossi's "Sticky Backs" studio at 54 North Street, Brighton. (c1910).  Photo Strip No. 463

[ABOVE] A portrait of a woman wearing a fancy hat photographed at  Grossi's "Sticky Backs" studio at 54 North Street, Brighton. (c1910). Photo Strip No. 462

[ACTUAL SIZE]

[ABOVE & RIGHT] A portrait of a girl photographed at the "Sticky Backs" studio at 54 North Street, Brighton (c1910). Each "sticky back" photograph carried the studio address of 54 North Street and an  identifying  number. This portrait carries Photo Number 391. Six photographic portraits were produced, one after the other, on a single strip of photo-paper.

ABOVE] A portrait of a mother and her child, photographed at the "Sticky Backs" studio at 54 North Street, Brighton (c1910). The proprietor of the studio Spiridione Grossi, a photographer and mechanical inventor from Liverpool, had devised a method of taking up to six photographs automatically on a single strip of photo-sensitive paper. The photographs carried the name of the studio, the studio address and the number of the "photo strip". [ Photo Strip No. 138]
   
[ABOVE] A portrait of a young boy from Photo Strip No. 138 . At the same photographic session this  boy was photographed with his mother (See the photograph above), but for this picture he is photographed on his own. The photograph carries the studio address of 54 North Street and the identifying  number 138. Six photographic portraits were produced either side-by-side or one above another on a single strip of photo-paper. This photograph along with several others featured on this webpage was found during a house clearance in Cheshire [ABOVE] A portrait of a woman wearing a large- brimmed hat and veil, photographed at the "Sticky Backs" studio at 54 North Street, Brighton (c1910). Each "sticky back" photo carried the studio address and an  identifying  number. This portrait has been trimmed , but the address of the studio and the Photo No. 718 can be discerned at the top of the picture. This photograph, which was found with a number of  other  "Sticky Back" photographs in Cheshire, is believed to have been taken by Spiridione Grossi,

 

 
To read a more detailed account of the life and career of Spiridione Grossi and to see further examples of the photographic portraits produced at Grossi's Sticky Backs studio in North Street Brighton, click on the link below:

Spiridione Grossi and The Sticky Backs Studio

 

To view a collection of 'Sticky Back'  photographic portraits produced at Brighton studios between 1910 and 1915, click on the link below:

The Trott Family Photo Album

 

Abraham Dudkin and the Sticky Backs Studio in North Street, Brighton (1911-1915)

[ABOVE] Abraham Dudkin (1876-1949), the proprietor of the Stickyback & Post Card Studios from around 1911 until 1915. During the First World War, Abraham Dudkin changed the name of his photography business from Stickyback & Post Card Studios to Modern Studios. Abraham Dudkin  operated photographic portrait studios in Brighton and Hove between 1911 and 1925.

[PHOTO: Courtesy of Jonathan & Bettina Walker]

Abraham Dudkin and the Sticky Back Photographic Portrait Studio

Abraham Dudkin was born on 10th November 1876 in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia. Abraham was the eldest son of at least fourteen children born to Mira and Moses Dudkin, a Jewish rabbi.

Abraham Dudkin arrived in England around 1898. After a number of years working as an itinerant fur dealer, Abraham Dudkin settled in the Sussex seaside resort of Brighton. In 1908, Abraham Dudkin had married twenty-three year old Rachel Hanchen Plaut (born 1885, Wehrda, Germany) and when the couple arrived in Brighton in August 1909, Abraham's wife was expecting their first child. A son named Lewis Stanley Dudkin was born on 24th November 1909. By this date, Abraham Dudkin had established a fur business at 185 Western Road, Brighton under the name of Alfred Dudkin & Co. (Abraham and Rachel Dudkin's second child, Minnie Rosa Dudkin was born in Brighton on 6th June 1913).

Around 1911, Abraham Dudkin purchased the Sticky Back & Post Card Studio at 54 North Street, Brighton, previously operated by the photographer and mechanical inventor Spiridione Nicolo Grossi (born 1877, Liverpool). When the 1913 edition of Kelly's Sussex Directory was published, Abraham H. Dudkin was shown as the proprietor of the studio at 54 North Street, Brighton. By this time, Abraham Dudkin had opened a Hampshire branch of the Sticky Back & Post Card Studio at 228 Commercial Road, Portsmouth. Surviving postcard studio portraits carrying the photographer's credit Stickyback & Postcard Studios, 54 North Street, Brighton and 228 Commercial Road, Portsmouth have been found with a postmark date of 1912. Publicity for the Sticky Back & Post Card Studios claim that the company also had a branch studio in London, but no evidence of this has been found and surviving postcards do not give a studio address in London.

When Abraham Dudkin purchased Spiridione Grossi's Sticky Back & Post Card Studio at 54 North Street, Brighton, he also acquired the Liverpool-born inventor's apparatus for producing "automatic photographic portraits" on a strip of photo-sensitive paper. Between 1911 and 1915, Abraham Dudkin is known to have produced photographic portraits on continuous strips of photo-sensitive paper, capturing up to six different poses on a single sheet. Examples of Abraham Dudkin's "Sticky Back" strip-photographs are rare, but fortunately a few taken of himself, his wife Rachel and their young son have survived in the Dudkin family archive. (See below for illustrated examples of Dudkin's "automatic" photo-strips, labelled with the "Sticky Backs" trade name). A story handed down by Bluma Dudkin, Abraham's younger sister, suggests that Abraham Dudkin sold the rights to the "Sticky Backs" photographic process to an America-based relative named Gregory Wishniak. According to Natalie Brustin, Bluma Dudkin's daughter, Gregory Wishniak and his nephew Naum (Norman) Sviatachevsky operated a "Sticky Backs" studio in San Francisco during the First World War period. This would have been around 1915, when Abraham Dudkin dropped the "Sticky Back" trade name and re-launched his photography business under the new company name of "Modern Studios".

Between 1915 and 1925, Abraham Dudkin operated a number of photographic studios under the trading name of Modern Studios, controlling branches in Brighton, Hove, Shoreham and Portsmouth. After ten years, Abraham Dudkin wound up Modern Studios and from 1926 until his death in 1949, this enterprising businessman concentrated on his fur business.

[ABOVE] The Brighton photographer Abraham Dudkin (1876-1949), proprietor of the Sticky Backs Studio at 54 North Street, Brighton, pictured with his son Lewis Stanley Dudkin (born 1909, Brighton) in a series of "automatic" photo strips produced around 1913.                                               [PHOTO: Courtesy of Jonathan & Bettina Walker]
 

[ABOVE & RIGHT] Complete continuous and uncut photo-strips produced at Abraham Dudkin's Sticky Backs Studio at 54 North Street, Brighton, around 1912. The little boy in the fur hat and coat is the photographer's son Lewis Stanley Dudkin (born 1909, Brighton). The lady in the large hat is Mrs Rachel Dudkin (born 1885, Wehrda, Germany), Abraham Dudkin's wife.

[PHOTOS: Courtesy of Jonathan & Bettina Walker]

Abraham Dudkin's "Sticky Back" Photographs and Automatic Photography in the United States

Around 1911, Abraham Dudkin was employing his younger sister Bluma Dudkin at his Sticky Back & Post Card Studio at 54 North Street, Brighton. Bluma Dudkin had been born in Russia on 6th July 1898, but at the age of 13 she had left Russia and, travelling alone, she had made the long journey to England to join her older brother's family in Brighton. Bluma Dudkin assisted her brother in his Sticky Back portrait studio between 1911 and 1914 and so had first-hand knowledge of the Sticky Back photographic process and witnessed visits to the Brighton studio by Russian born friends and relatives who had made a new life in the United States. Shortly before the outbreak of the First World War, Bluma Dudkin had returned to Russia. Bluma, who was still only a teenager, travelled across Siberia, making her way to the Far Eastern Republic of Chita and then to Harbin, a city in North-East China. ( Interestingly, Anatol Josepho, the inventor of the coin-operated automatic photo machine, was also living in Harbin around this time).  It was during her travels in the Far East that Bluma Dudkin met Paul Nass, a Russian emigrant heading for California. The couple sailed to San Francisco where they were married in July 1918. A daughter named Natalie was born in San Francisco in December 1918. Bluma's daughter Natalie later went on to marry Sidney Brustin.

Bluma's daughter, Natalie Brustin was told stories by her mother of the photographic portrait studios in which she had worked as a teenager and as a young woman. According to Natalie Brustin, Russian-born relatives who had emigrated to the United States, visited Abraham Dudkin's Sticky Back & Post Card Studio at 54 North Street, Brighton and had shown a particular interest in the "automatic photographic portraits" being produced with Spiridione Grossi's apparatus. Mira Salumanovitch, Abraham Dudkin's mother, had a sister named Hasia Salumanovitch, who had married Gregory Wishniak, a businessman based in California. The story that was passed down from Bluma Dudkin to her daughter Natalie was that Gregory Wishniak visited Abraham Dudkin in Brighton and witnessed the "Sticky Back" photographic process in action at Abraham's studio at 54 North Street, Brighton. Natalie Brustin maintains that Gregory Wishniak bought the rights to the "Sticky Back" photographic process and opened a photographic studio in San Francisco producing "automatic photographic portraits" based on the "photo-strip" method first introduced by Spiridione Nicolo Grossi. Natalie Brustin recalled that Gregory Wishniak bought Naum (Norman) Sviatachevsky (a nephew of Hasia Salumanovitch) into his automatic photography business. Significantly, another nephew by the name of Anatol Josephewitz (Josepho) also took a strong interest in the "automatic portrait photography" practised by Norman Sviatachevsky in Wishniak's San Francisco studio.

The story of these early ventures into "automatic photography" recounted to Natalie Brustin by her mother Bluma Dudkin, suggests a link between Abraham Dudkin's mechanised "Sticky Back" photographic process in Brighton and the coin-operated automatic photographic machine introduced to the citizens of New York in 1925 by Anatol Josepho. [ See the section on Anatol Josepho and the Photomaton below].

Anatol Josepho (apparently a nephew of Abraham Dudkin's aunt) arrived in San Francisco around 1923 and stayed for a time in the home of Paul and Bluma Nass (Abraham Dudkin's younger sister). Anatol Josepho had drawn up plans for his automatic photo machine two years earlier in the Chinese city of Shanghai, but when he arrived in the United States seeking technical advice and equipment, plus investors to provide working capital for his ingenious idea, he took the opportunity to study the "automatic" photographic devices that were then being employed in photographic portrait studios in San Francisco and the film studios of Hollywood. [See the section on Anatol Josepho and the Photomaton below]. It seems likely that while staying with Bluma Nass in San Francisco, Anatol Josepho paid a visit to Gregory Wishniak's "Sticky Back" photographic studio. (It has been suggested by Natalie Brustin that Anatol Josepho had previously met up with Gregory Wishniak in Budapest where both had operated photographic portrait studios).

[ABOVE & RIGHT] A Sticky Back photo-strip portrait of  Abraham Dudkin's wife Rachel and their young son Lewis Stanley Dudkin. (c1912)

 

[ABOVE] The Brighton photographer Abraham Dudkin (1876-1949), proprietor of the Sticky Backs Studio at 54 North Street, Brighton, pictured with his son Lewis Stanley Dudkin (born 1909, Brighton) in a series of "automatic" photo strips produced around 1913.                                                          [PHOTO: Courtesy of Jonathan & Bettina Walker]
 
To read a more detailed account of the life and career of Abraham Dudkin and his younger brother Mordecai Dudkin and to see further examples of the photographic portraits produced at their studios in Brighton & Hove, click on the link below :

Dudkin's Modern Studios of Brighton

 

To read an account of Sidney Boultwood and his chain of Stickybacks studios, click on the link below:

Sidney Boultwood and his Stickybacks Studios

 

Automatic Portrait Photographs from other Photographic Studios in Sussex

[ABOVE] An automatic photographic portrait taken in Worthing around 1912 showing an elderly woman wearing a hat decorated with feathers. This automatic portrait was produced at 167 Montague Street, Worthing. This small portrait gives the location of the studio as "167 MONTAGUE ST. WORTHING".

[PHOTO: Courtesy of  Ben Hall]

[PHOTO: Courtesy of  Ben Hall]

[ABOVE] An automatic photographic portrait taken in Worthing around 1912 showing a young woman wearing a wide-rimmed had . This automatic portrait was produced at 167 Montague Street, Worthing. This small portrait carries the Photo Reference Y617 and gives the location of the studio as "167 MONTAGUE ST. WORTHING".

[PHOTO: Courtesy of  Ben Hall]

PHOTO: Courtesy of  Ben Hall]

[ABOVE] An automatic photographic portrait taken in Worthing around 1912. The subject of the portrait is believed to be Mrs Mary Wright (c1826-1920), the widow of Worthing photographer Charles Joseph Wright (1823-1904).  A skilled embroiderer and needle-worker, Mrs Mary Wright ran a '"Berlin Wool Repository" in South Street, Worthing, during the 1850s, but later worked as "Miniature Painter" and confectioner. Widowed in 1904, Mrs Mary Wright died in 1920 at the age of 94. This automatic portrait was produced at 167 Montague Street, Worthing, around 1912, when Mrs Wright was in her mid-eighties. This small portrait carries the Photo Reference H685 and gives the location of the studio as "167 MONTAGUE ST. WORTHING".

[PHOTO: Courtesy of Janice Wright, great, great grand-daughter of Mrs Mary Wright (nee MacWhirter)]

[ABOVE] An automatic photographic portrait of Arthur Percy Bale (1895-1916), the son of  Frank Bale, "The Bognor Clown". Arthur Percy Bale enlisted as a Private in the Second Battalion of the Hampshire Regiment and was killed on the Somme in France on 17th October 1916 at the age of twenty. This photograph was probably taken at King & Wilson's Pier Arcade Studio in Bognor, West Sussex, between 1915 and 1916, the year that Arthur Bale set off for France with his regiment. King & Wilson operated from a studio at  8 Pier Arcade, Bognor from around 1915 until about 1930. This small photographic portrait carries the Photo Reference Q34 and gives the location of the studio as "PIER ARCADE - BOGNOR". (Only the top half of the studio address is visible at the foot of the print).

[PHOTO: Courtesy of Karen Nesbitt, great grand-daughter of Frank Bale]

[ABOVE] An automatic photographic portrait taken at No.9 North Street Quadrant, Brighton, a studio operated by Edward (Edwin) Walter Simmons (born 1865, Marylebone, London)  from 1905 until 1911. The subject is believed to be a member of the Trott Family of Brighton. This small photographic portrait carries a Photo Reference Number (No. 605?) which has been cropped in half in this photograph.

 

[PHOTOS (left & above): Courtesy of Paul Trott of Worthing]

 

 

 

Anatol Josepho and the Photomaton - the first practical coin-operated automatic photo booth

[ABOVE] Anatol Josepho (1894-1980) pictured inside one of his automatic photo booths in 1928. A photographer and inventor, Anatol Josephewitz was born in 1894 in central Siberia, a vast region of the Russian Empire. The son of Marco Josephewitz, a Jewish Russian jeweller, Anatol Josephewitz, spent his youth travelling across Europe and Asia, working as a photographer in Berlin (Germany), Budapest (Hungary) and Shanghai (China). Changing his surname from Josephewitz to Josepho, Anatol travelled to America in 1923, eventually settling in New York, where he launched his ingenious invention the Photomaton, an automatic, coin-operated photo booth.

[ABOVE] A main street in the  Hungarian city of Budapest, pictured around 1900.  In the years leading up to the First World War, Anatol Josepho operated his own photographic portrait studio in Budapest.

Anatol Josepho (1894-1980) - The Inventor of the Automatic Photo Booth

Early Years

Anatol Josepho, a Russian Jew from Siberia, was born Anatol Marco Josephewitz, the son of Esther and Marco Josephewitz, on 31st March 1894. Anatol's birthplace is variously given as Omsk or Tomsk, two Siberian cities some 500 miles apart. In an interview given in 1928, Anatol Josepho states: "I was born in the central part of Siberia. I attended grammar schools and later studied at the Institute of Engineering at Omsk". Contemporary newspaper and magazine articles state confidently that Anatol Josepho was born in the Siberian city of Omsk.

Anatol Josepho had a particularly close bond with his father, Marco Josephewitz, a jeweller who had lost his wife when Anatol was only three years of age. While studying at the Institute of Engineering in Omsk, Anatol became especially interested in photography and also developed a strong desire to travel. At the age of 15, Anatol informed his father that he wanted to go abroad to study photography. Marco Josephewitz agreed to pay Anatol's rail fare to Germany and encouraged his son's ambitions. According to a a popular magazine published in 1927, Marco Josephewitz said farewell to Anatol with these inspiring words: "Life itself, my son, is the supreme teacher. Go. Travel. Work. Study. Listen...Come back when you will. I'll be waiting for you. And I want to be proud of you when you come back. Remember that, my boy, won't you?".

Anatol Josepho later recalled that to continue his studies in photography, he "scraped up enough money" to go to Berlin. In the German capital, Anatol Josephewitz's money ran out, so he found work as an assistant in a Berlin photographic studio, where he trained as a portrait photographer and perfected his skills in developing and printing photographs.

Anatol Josephewitz (Josepho) - Professional Photographer in Europe and Asia

In 1912, at the age of 18, Anatol Josephewitz took a ship to New York, but not being able to find a suitable job in America, he returned to Europe. Joseph travelled to Hungary and opened his own photographic portrait studio in Budapest. According to Nakki Goranin, author of 'American Photobooth' (2008), even in his teens, Anatol Josephewitz was developing "the idea of creating a faster, more efficient, and less costly way of creating images that would make photographs available to the average working man".

At the outbreak of the First World War, Anatol Josephewitz attempted to return to Russia, but was arrested by Hungarian border guards and interned. Anatol later told a reporter that it was "during the long, idle days" in the internment camp that he "conceived the idea of an automatic camera". Eventually, Josepho and a friend escaped from a Hungarian prison camp and, disguised as returning prisoners of war, boarded a troop train to the Ukrainian city of Odessa.

When Anatol Josephewitz arrived in Russia in 1918, his home country was controlled by the Bolsheviks, a communist faction that had seized power in the Revolution of October 1917. It was while crossing his native country that Anatol and his companion were arrested by armed Bolsheviks and imprisoned once again. After a couple of daring escapes, Anatol managed to travel by rail to Harbin in Manchuria, where he made some money by buying goods in China and selling them later at "a high profit".

By 1921, Anatol Josephewitz, now using the professional surname of 'Josepho', had opened a photographic portrait studio in the Chinese port of Shanghai. During his stay in China, Anatol Josepho was haunted by the "thought of the automatic camera" and in between taking portraits in his Shanghai studio, he worked out the details of his proposed invention.

Within a couple of years, Anatol Josepho had completed his designs for an automatic photo machine, but he was not yet in a position to start constructing a prototype. as Josepho later explained in a conversation with Orville Kneen: "By 1923 all I needed was money, and some delicate parts such as optical apparatus. I knew I could get them in America. Like all Europeans, I had heard of the fortunes to be made there. So I sold my studio (in Shanghai) and sailed to San Francisco".

[ABOVE] A population density map of Asia and eastern Europe, showing the cities (marked with a green dot) where the photographer Anatol Josepho was based between 1909 and 1923. Anatol Josepho, who might have originated from Tomsk, was educated in the Siberian city of Omsk  (marked with a purple dot). From Omsk, Josepho travelled to Berlin, where he trained as a professional photographer. In the years leading up to the First World War, Anatol Josepho operated his own photographic portrait studio in the Hungarian city of Budapest. In 1921, after a brief period trading in Harbin in Manchuria, Anatol Josepho established a photographic portrait studio in Shanghai. A few years later, Anatol Josepho sailed to North America where he settled permanently.

The Travels of Anatol Josepho 1919-1923

In 1909, at the age of fifteen, Anatol Josephewitz (Josepho) had left Omsk in central Siberia and travelled to Berlin to train as a photographer. After working in a Berlin photographic studio, Anatol travelled to Budapest where he ran his own portrait studio. By 1921, Anatol Josepho was working as a photographer in the Chinese port of Shanghai. In 1923, Josepho took a ship to Seattle. Visiting San Francisco and Hollywood, Anatol Josepho then made his way to New York City, where he unveiled his automatic photo booth in 1925.

[ABOVE] A 19th century photographic view of Shanghai, where Anatol Josepho established himself as a photographer in the early 1920s. Anatol learned English from Shanghai colonials.

 
Anatol Josepho in the United States
  • [ABOVE] Anatol Josepho, pictured with his wife Ganna, examining a strip of photographic portraits produced by the Photomaton, the automatic photo booth in which the couple sit. (28th March 1927). Ganna, a silent film actress, reportedly pawned her jewellery to help finance the development of her husband's invention.

    [ABOVE] A photograph taken in 1927, showing the window display at Anatol Josepho's Photomaton store.  From the earliest days of the  Photomaton business, customers were offered 8 pictures in 8 possible poses in 8 minutes for the sum of 25 cents.    PHOTO CREDIT: bernardinai.lt

     

    [ABOVE] An illustration from the technology magazine Modern Mechanics and Inventions (November 1928), showing customers waiting to use a Photomaton photo booth in an American department store. The sign beside the Photomaton  booth advertises "8 pictures for 25 cents". The advertising board on the right of the picture offers "Portrait Enlargements" made from the small Photomaton photos.

    Anatol Josepho arrives in California

    In 1923, Anatol Josepho sailed from the Chinese port of Shanghai to Seattle and then made his way to the Californian city of San Francisco. Initially, the cash-strapped photographer and inventor stayed with friends and relatives in California. According to Natalie Brustin, Anatol Josepho stayed for a time in the home of Paul and Bluma Nass, the younger sister of Abraham Dudkin, the Brighton-based businessman who had pioneered the Sticky Back automatic photo process at his photographic portrait studio at 54 North Street, Brighton before the First World War. While staying in California, Anatol Josepho took the opportunity to study the "automatic" photo machines that were already in use in San Francisco (e.g. Wishniak and Sviatachevsky's "Sticky Back" photographic studio) and even made a trip to Hollywood. Anatol Josepho told the Photo-Era Magazine in 1927 that he had come to America to "hunt for backers", but, once in California," it struck me that I ought to go to Hollywood and get motion-picture experience". A contemporary report says that Josepho went to Hollywood to make a study of "motion picture mechanics".

    Anatol Josepho seeks Financial Backing in New York City

    By 1924, Anatol Josepho had perfected his design for a coin-operated, automatic photo machine, but he was short of cash and lacking the necessary funds to build a working model and secure a commercial future for his invention. When Anatol Josepho arrived in New York City that year he had only 30 dollars in his pocket. As the American aviator and writer Orville H. Kneen phrased it: "a certain Russian immigrant landed in New York, short on dollars but long on ideas".

    In an interview with Orville Hayter Kneen (1889-1964), Anatol Josepho recalled that that 1924 was a difficult year: "Many times I found myself down to my last dollar. I sought friends willing to sink a few dollars in making a working model and getting  patents. I knew it would revolutionize the making of portraits". Anatol Josepho had relatives in New York and with their aid and the assistance of friends who had faith in his idea of an automatic photo machine, he was able to raise $11,000, the sum needed to produce a working model and patent the idea of a coin-operated photo booth.

     In 1923, Anatol Josepho had filed a patent for an "automatic camera for taking timed sequences of portraits". Now with some working capital, Josepho was in a position to patent and build a prototype for his coin-operated photo booth. Anatol Josepho constructed the first model of his Photomaton (the first "fully automatic photographic machine") in a loft building on 125th Street, New York City and he applied for a patent on the Photomaton machine on 13th March 1925. (Patent No. 1,656,522 - the patent on an apparatus for "developing photographic film strips" was not issued to Anatol Marco Josepho until 17th January 1928). The original patent claimed that the  Photomaton machine could produce "a strip of 8 photographs of good quality in 8 minutes".

    Anatol Josepho's Photomaton Studio on New York's Broadway

    By 1925, Anatol Josepho was courting a silent film actress named Ganna, who together with her father (the owner of a cigarette paper printing business) helped finance Anatol's Photomaton machine. (According to Natalie Brustin, Ganna the film actress "had to hock her jewellery to pay for the prototype"). Josepho also found a businessman who was prepared to finance a Photomaton photo-booth studio in New York City. In September 1925, studio premises were established at 1659 Broadway between 51st Street and 52nd Street, New York City. The Photomaton proved to be an instant success. As Anatol Josepho told Orville Hayter Kneen in an interview a few years later:

    "At last some New York business man gave me enough to open a studio on Broadway. Six months' trial was to prove whether the invention on which I had staked so much for fourteen years, was wanted by the public. We soon found out. Two thousand persons a day lined up at the studio and their quarters flowed into the slots. The Broadway crowds proved that my rapid-fire picture machine was a gold-mine".

     From "Penniless Inventor Gets Million for Photo Machine" by Orville H. Kneen, an article in 'Modern Mechanics and Inventions' magazine (November 1928)

    The Photomaton produced a strip of 8 good quality self-portrait photographs in 8 minutes. In April 1927, Time magazine reported that 280,000 customers had posed for automatic self-portraits in Josepho's Photomaton photo-booths over a period of just six months. Apart from the novelty of using a coin operated, automatic photo machine, the photographic portraits produced by the Photomaton were seen, at just over 3 cents per picture, to be extremely good value and could be utilised by the customer in a variety of ways e.g. affixing the photos to employment applications and identity cards, providing identification on driving licenses, travel cards and passports, personalising birthday or greetings cards, exchanging the small photos as tokens of love, and so on.

    [ABOVE] A self-portrait of Anatol Josepho, photographed by one of  the automatic photo machines he had invented in 1925. In this self-portrait, taken in a Photomaton automatic photo booth around 1930, Anatol, a tobacco pipe in his left hand, is shown posing with his pet white terrier.

    [ABOVE] The original design drawing of the  Photomaton photo booth filed with the U.S. Patent Office on 27th March 1925 as part of the patent application by Anatol Josepho for "an automatic coin operated photographic apparatus". Josepho had to raise  $11,000 from friends, relatives and interested businessmen to get the Photomaton photo booth into production and operating on the streets of New York City. In an  interview given in 1927, Anatol Josepho remarked "Incidentally, I may say that those who loaned me the money for an interest in the invention have been well repaid for taking a chance".

    [ABOVE] A photograph of Anatol Josepho (1894-1980) pictured sitting inside the Photomaton, the automatic photo booth he invented in 1925. One side of the photo booth has been removed to show the workings of the coin-operated machine. The inventor is shown placing a coin in the slot and staring straight ahead at the camera fixed inside the box in front of him. [ABOVE] A cutaway illustration in the American popular technology magazine Modern Mechanics and Inventions (November 1928), labelling the basic components of the Photomaton, the coin-operated photo booth invented by Anatol Josepho in 1925. The inventor is shown facing the camera and placing a coin in the slot, which will trigger the mechanism. [ABOVE] Eight shots of Alfred "Al" Smith (1873-1944), the Governor of New York and American Presidential candidate, photographed in Anatol Josepho's photo booth in 1928.
    HOW ANATOL JOSEPHO'S COIN-OPERATED PHOTO BOOTH WORKED (from Modern Mechanics and Inventions, November 1928)
    No Films Used in Photomaton

    Perhaps the most interesting part of the indomitable little Russian's machine is his method of direct photography on the paper. Much of the complication of photography comes from the use of glass plates or film. Josepho uses specially sensitized paper. Two inches of this are exposed at each snap of the shutter, while the sitter thinks pleasantly of sweetheart, friends, foreign travels or similarly cheerful subjects. In just 20 seconds his eight poses have been recorded, and he has but eight minutes to idle while the machine does the rest. Five 400-watt projection lamps, well placed, give just the right light on the subject.

    An eighth-horsepower motor hums merrily. The strip is cut from a roll which will suffice for 800 more patrons. The exposed strip is fed by rollers into a 9-compartment tank, where it is quickly developed, "blanched", cleared and toned, with a thorough washing between each process. Electric drying finishes the job, and the sitter is handed a strip faithfully recording his looks, such as they may be.

    Every photographer, amateur or professional, is surprised at the simplicity and effectiveness of Josepho's direct-photography. The paper is treated with a sensitive emulsion, in which are millions of microscopic particles of silver compound. The light rays from the sitter affect the particles, and when the paper is passed through the developer, those most affected are blackest, forming a negative similar to that usually made on transparent film or plate. Dark objects show up white, and all white objects are dark colored.

    After a washing, the "negative" now passes into a powerful solution called "blanchite". This dissolves all the black silver away, leaving the silver-compound image. After washing and "clearing" in another solution, the picture is a distinct but faint positive. Compartment No. 8 contains "seepitone", which changes the pure white silver compound into a dark brown or black silver, and the strip of pictures is clear and complete, with every shading and item of detail as in ordinary photography.

    Extract from "Penniless INVENTOR Gets Million for Photo Machine" by Orville H. Kneen taken from Modern Mechanics and Inventions  (November 1928)

    [ABOVE] Posed portraits taken from a single Photomaton photo-strip (c1930). The Photomaton produced 8 different poses in 8 minutes for 25 cents.

    [PHOTO CREDIT: The images of the Photomaton photo-strip (above) and the Photomaton envelopes (below) are taken from the fascinating website  Photobooth.net  (see acknowledgement & link below)

    [ABOVE] Henry Morgenthau (1856-1946), the businessman and former diplomat who headed the consortium which purchased the American rights to Photomaton, Anatol Josepho's automatic photography business. Anatol Josepho sold the American rights to the Photomaton process to Morgenthau and his associates for one million dollars in 1927.

    [ABOVE] An article about Anatol Josepho and his automatic photo booth, published in the American popular technology magazine Modern Mechanics and Inventions in November 1928. This article, penned by Orville H. Kneen, carries the sensational headline "Penniless INVENTOR Gets Million for Photo Machine" and begins with this opening paragraph : "Ten years ago a penniless prisoner of the Bolsheviks; today an American millionaire! This fascinating story tells how a young Russian inventor persevered through years of discouragement and finally perfected a machine for taking automatic photos which he sold for a million dollars".

    PHOTO CREDIT: The image of the article "Penniless INVENTOR Gets Million for Photo Machine" is taken from ModernMechanix.com

    [ABOVE] A small paper envelope produced by the Photomaton Corporation to protect the strip of 8 photographic portraits taken at one of the company's automatic photo booths. Using the slogan "Just Picture Yourself!",  the publicity on the envelope promises 8 different poses in 8 minutes for 25 cents.
    [ABOVE]  Information printed on the back of the protective envelope suggesting uses for the 8 small portraits photographed at the Photomaton photo booths. Attaching the photos to employment applications and identification cards are just two of the suggested ideas. PHOTO CREDIT: Photobooth.net

    Anatol Josepho Sells his Photo-Machine Invention for One Million Dollars

    [ABOVE] A mother and daughter photographed in an automatic photo booth in Germany in the 1930s. The Photomaton company operated photo-booths in Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Canada. In April 1928, a British company The Photomaton Parent Corporation revealed its plans to set up coin-operated photo-booths in amusement parks and at railway stations. In June 1928, Photomaton photo booths were installed at five different locations in Paris, France. By 1933, there were 240 studios in the United States and 140 studios in France. During this period, the Photomaton company also set up automatic photo-booths in Australia, New Zealand, China, Japan and Latvia.

    The instant commercial success of Anatol Josepho's Photomaton attracted the interest of Henry Morgenthau senior (1856-1946), a lawyer and former diplomat who had served as the United States Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire (Turkey) during the First World War. Morgenthau had already established a reputation as a shrewd businessman, making big returns on real estate deals and investing in the Underwood Typewriter Co., which had risen to become the world's largest typewriter manufacturer under his directorship.

    During the early months of 1927, Henry Morgenthau senior assembled a group of investors with the purpose of obtaining the rights to Josepho's Photomaton process. In March 1927, Henry Morgenthau's business consortium paid Anatol Josepho the sum of one million dollars (the equivalent of over $12.5 million in today's money) for the American rights to the Photomaton Photo-Machine. On 28th March 1927, the New York Times led with the story of the deal under the headline "Slot Photo Device Brings $1,000,000 to Young Inventor". Henry Morgenthau senior told journalists: "I believe that through Mr Josepho's invention, we can make personal photography easily and cheaply available to the masses of this country. We propose to do in the photographic field what Woolworth's has accomplished in novelties and merchandise, Ford in automobiles..."

    The syndicate of businessmen which formed Photomaton Inc. announced that they had plans to "establish 70 of these mechanical studios at Coney Island, Atlantic City and strategic points throughout the United States by the end of the first year". The American popular technology magazine Modern Mechanics and Inventions reported in November 1928 that Photomaton Inc. had already installed "120 machines in this country (USA), Great Britain, South Africa, Shanghai and other lands". In April 1928, after negotiations with representatives of the American Photomaton Inc., a British company called the Photomaton Parent Corporation Limited announced its intention to operate photograph machines in hundreds of public places such as railway stations, amusement parks, etc.

    By 1933, there were 240 studios in the United States and 140 studios in France. The Photomaton company also set up automatic photo-booths in Australia, New Zealand, China, Japan and Latvia.In her book "Photobooth" Babbette Hines reported that by 1948 there were more than 30,000 coin-operated automatic photo machines in the United States alone.

    [ABOVE]  Customers queue up to use a Photomaton photo booth in an American department store in 1930. On the right of the picture is a shop counter promoting "Portrait Enlargements" taken from the tiny photo booth portraits. Photomaton's  publicity offered "Portrait Enlargements" priced from 90 cents to $1.50 "complete with folders".

    [PHOTO CREDIT: bernardinai.lt]

    [ABOVE] An advertisement for the Photomaton in the Wellington Evening Post (23rd August 1929) offering "6 photos in 6 positions in 6 minutes" for 1s 6d.

    The Photomaton Process

    [ABOVE]  Two poses taken in a Photomaton photo booth (c1936). After a coin was placed in a slot, the automatic photo-machine made 8 exposures on a strip of photo-sensitive paper treated with silver sulphides. The exposed strip was fed by rollers into a 9-compartment developing tank, where it was developed, blanched, cleaned and toned. After 8 minutes, the photo-machine delivers the direct positive photographic portraits to the customer. Photomaton  publicity promised  "8 pictures in 8 poses in 8 minutes" for 25 cents. In the late 1920s, customers were often assisted by photo-booth attendants who directed the sitters to  "look to the right, look to the left, look straight to the camera." and so on. By the time this portrait was taken in the mid 1930s, booths were equipped with curtains for privacy and the sitter had the liberty to adopt whatever poses and facial expressions she liked.

    [ABOVE] An American serviceman, photographed in an automatic photo-booth around 1942. Thousands of soldiers, airmen and sailors used the coin-operated photo-booths to produce photographic keepsakes for their loved ones before they departed overseas. There was a rapid growth in the numbers of automatic photo-booths during the Second World War period. Babbette Hines, in her book "Photobooth", states that by the end of the war there were about 30,000 coin-operated automatic photo machines in the United States alone.

    [ABOVE] Will Rogers (1879-1935), the 'cowboy philosopher'. Will Rogers was a close friend and neighbour of the inventor Anatol Josepho, who might have shared the American humorist's sympathy with the "Common Man". Rogers and Josepho owned adjoining properties  in the Pacific Pallisades district of southern California. Josepho would probably agree with Will Rogers' dictum: "If you want to be successful, it's just this simple. Know what you are doing. Love what you are doing. And believe in what you are doing".
    Anatol Josepho - Socialist or Philanthropist ?

    The American press became fascinated by the good fortune of the young Russian-born inventor of the Photomaton automatic photo-machine. Under the headline "Penniless INVENTOR Gets Million for Photo Machine", the American popular technology magazine Modern Mechanics and Inventions began its story with the phrase "Ten years ago a penniless prisoner of the Bolsheviks; today an American millionaire!". Another publication commented: "Every inventor's dream of a million-dollar idea has just been realized by Anatol Josepho". An article by Aben Kandel was published in the American Hebrew & Jewish Messenger on 22nd April 1927 under the title: "A Million-Dollar Invention: Anatol Josepho Automatic Photographic Apparatus Brought Him a Big Check (Cheque)". A few days after the million dollar deal, Anatol Josepho admitted to Time magazine that "the average inventor has a hard life and it is a rare instance for him to reap the rewards of his invention as I have done."

    However, it was not just the enormous sum of money that Anatol Josepho was paid for his invention that put him under the spotlight. In an interview given shortly after the million dollar deal was announced, Anatol Josepho declared his intention to give much of the money away to good causes. According to some reports, Anatol Josepho planned to donate $500,000 to charity and establish a 'trust fund' to help his "brother inventors". On 4th April 1927, Time magazine commented: "Inventor Josepho, who is a Socialist only three years removed from penniless Russian immigrancy, will act consistently. Half of his million he will devote to general charity; half 'to helping my brother inventors to similar success'."

    In some magazines and journals, the reaction to Anatol Josepho's unexpected generosity was generally positive. Orville H. Kneen, writing in 1928 in Modern Mechanics and Inventions, a popular technology magazine, commented:

    "One unexpected result of the immigrant's success, apart from making him an American citizen, is the trust fund he has established to help other inventors. Out of this timely aid may come some of the great inventions on which tomorrow's progress, comfort and happiness will depend."

    Other commentators were more wary about Josepho's motives and concluded that, given his Russian background, he must be some kind of "socialist". In 1927, a journalist in Photo-Era magazine wrote:

    "Mr Josepho is a socialist. He plans to set aside half of his first million (dollars) for philanthropic work. 'I plan to create a trust fund of half of the first million dollars to be devoted to general charity based along economically sound lines', he (Josepho) said".

    In another interview, Anatol Josepho hinted at his general sympathy for the common man. Josepho told Orville H. Kneen: "I am now able to work on other ideas I have, to make the necessities and luxuries of life available to every one."

    Aben Kandel, writing in the American Hebrew & Jewish Messenger on 22nd April 1927, acknowledged that the general public were fascinated by Josepho's personal journey, progressing from being a 'penniless inventor' to becoming a 'millionaire', overnight. But, Kandel added: "A second reason for the widespread interest in Mr Josepho was the report that he was a Socialist and that he planned to give half of his first million to philanthropic work".

    Anatol Josepho was stung by the accusations that he was a "socialist". Josepho told Aben Kandel: "I am not a Socialist. In fact, I have no political affiliations of any kind. All my life I have been far too busy to concern myself with those things".

    Nakki Goranin, who made a study of Anatol Josepho's life and career in her book  'American Photobooth' (2008), has commented on the American press's negative and suspicious response to the Russian inventor's generosity.

    Anatol accepted the million dollars, and immediately gave part of the money away to the needy of New York City. The press reacted negatively. Because of the Russian Revolution and his Siberian origins, the fact that he planned to give away much of his money was seen as evidence that he was a socialist. Journalists could not imagine anyone giving away this kind of money without a political agenda.

    Nakki Goranin in an interview with the Telegraph newspaper on 7th March 2008.

    Despite his denials of any political agenda, his contemporaries assumed that Anatol Josepho was a "Socialist".  Most modern writers have also concluded that Joseph was a socialist, although it was a label he rejected during his lifetime. Babbette Hines, the author of "Photobooth"(2002), believes Josepho was "a devout socialist" and the 2008 edition of "Webster's Quotations, Facts and Phrases" describes Anatol Josepho as a "socialist" immigrant to the United States of America.

    Anatol Josepho after 1927

    After Anatol Josepho sold the rights to his Photomaton process, he was made Vice President of Photomaton Inc. and was retained by the company as "technical adviser in charge of production".

    Anatol Josepho was now primarily an inventor and as he told Orville H. Kneen in 1928, he now intended to "work on other ideas I have, to make the necessities and luxuries of life available to every one". Josepho filed a number of patents in the field of photography (Developing apparatus for photographic films, a portable photographic camera, etc.), but he also invented household items such as a one-knob shower handle and a safety screw driver.

    In 1929, Anatol Jospho became a member of the Los Angeles section of the American Society of Engineers. In 1937, the Society's membership list recorded Josepho at 2100 Rustic Canyon, Pacific Pallisades, Los Angeles.

    Anatol Josepho had married the silent film actress Ganna and they had two sons - Roy and Marco and, eventually, seven grandchildren.

    After a period of time in Europe, Anatol Josepho and his wife Ganna returned to the United States and made their home in the Santa Monica district of California. Anatol Josepho owned a large area of land in the remote Rustic Canyon region north of Santa Monica. In 1941, Anatol Jospho donated over 100 acres of his property, an estate then valued at 55 million dollars, to the Boy Scouts of America as "an expression of gratitude to his adopted land". Named Camp Josepho in honour of the donors Anatol and Ganna Josepho, this rural area in the Pacific Pallisades district of southern California has been used as a retreat for boy scouts and other organised groups ever since.

    In 1980, towards the end of his life, Anatol Josepho was awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Science and Technology by the Technion (Israel Institute of Technology) in Haifa, Israel.

    Anatol Josepho died at La Jolla in southern California in December 1980 at the age of 86, following complications from a stroke suffered earlier that year.

    [ABOVE] A Photomaton photo-booth being used in France during the 1940s. During the early years of the Photomaton Inc. company, especially where Photomaton photo-booths were installed at large department stores, white-coated attendants were often on hand to assist the sitter. It is likely that where the coin-operated photo-machines were situated in amusement arcades and pleasure parks, such as those at Coney Island and Atlantic City, the photo booths were self-operated and sitters were free to pose as they pleased. However, in large stores, attendants were stationed near the booths to provide assistance, supervise queues and persuade customers to order enlargements, purchase frames or folders, or arrange for the portraits to be colour-tinted. Journalists commented how the self-operated photo-booths offered a new freedom for the sitter, "taking the 'scare' and most of the cost out of portraits. However, in the larger stores, customers were often not free to pose as they wished. According to Nakki Goranin, the author of  'American Photobooth ': "A white-gloved attendant would guide people to the booth and, once inside, direct them to 'look to the right, look to the left, look at the camera'." After 1934, it was more common for photo-booths to be completely self-operating and for curtains to be added to provide more privacy. From this date, without the interference of the white-coated attendants, sitters were left alone to create their own poses and facial expressions. The above photograph, which was taken in France in the 1940s, suggests that this new freedom was not universal.

    PHOTO CREDIT: vintageworks and iphotocentral

    "You need no longer be dull in Boston if you have twenty-five cents and a face. Go to the new Photomaton, in Filene's basement, some noon and see how romance and adventure have been injected into the hitherto grim business of having your pictures made.

    The Photomaton - someone should think up a more sprightly name for it! - automatically takes and develops eight pictures of you in eight minutes. I, alas, lack the technical equipment to describe the process, but I can stand witness to the extraordinarily enlivening effect it has on the hordes who gather to try it.

    From twelve to one is the busiest time for the Photomaton. Then the attendants at the three booths become automatons, herding the prospects in one line with one hand, guiding the immediate sitter with another, while muttering directions to both. Into the
    booths slip wearied suburban shoppers, with packages dangling from every finger, "on their lunch-hour," young men who will not be parted from their caps, photo or no photo, and whose mouths are a glitter of gold. One by one they take their places under the spotlight, smile widely from left to right and straight, and at last join the waiters by the picture-slot. It s as exciting as a rollercoaster at a seashore amusement Park or an airplane ride. . . As to the pictures? I have been frequently and expensively photographed, with mellow lights, and shaded lights, soft-focus cameras and the rest of it ... For me, the little bird in the camera has always been cuckoo. The photomaton restored my tottering self-respect."

    Photo-Era Magazine (December, 1927)

    [ABOVE] This contemporary account of Photomaton booths in operation at Feline's, a Boston department store in 1927 makes reference to the photo-booth attendants, describing them as "automatons, herding the prospects in one line with one hand, guiding the immediate sitter with another, while muttering directions to both". In large American department stores, Photomaton booth attendants would supervise queues for the machine, assist the sitter in the booth, suggesting poses and photo-angles, cut up the strips into individual photos, if requested, and be on hand to provide advice on enlargements and colorization and promote frames and folders for the individual photo portraits.

    [ABOVE] An advertisement for Photomaton "Artistic Enlargements", which appeared in the Wellington Evening Post on 29th July 1929. Photomaton Ltd. (Sydney) opened a Photomaton Studio in the D. I. C. Department Store in Wellington, New Zealand, early in July 1929. The Photomaton "photo-machine" produced " 6 professional quality photos" in "6 minutes" for 1s 6d. The small photo-booth portraits could be enlarged to "Cabinet Size" (approximately 4 inches by 5 inches or 11cm x 17cm) at the price of 8 shillings for 3 copies. Three copies of the portrait in the larger "Boudoir Size" (roughly 5 inches by 9 inches) would cost 15 shillings.

     

    The Decline and Fall of the Photomaton Company in Britain

    Clarence Charles Hatry and the Photomaton Parent Corporation

    Clarence Charles Hatry was born in London on 16th December 1888, the son of Henrietta Katzenstein and Julius Hatry (c1847-1907), a wealthy silk merchant who originated from Germany. After the death of his father, Clarence Hatry took over the running of the family silk business, but by October 1910, the business had failed and Clarence Hatry was declared bankrupt.

    After the collapse of the family business, Clarence Hatry became an insurance broker. In 1914, Hatry acquired the City Equitable Fire Insurance Company and sold it the following year at a huge profit. A successful speculator, Hatry amassed a fortune by acquiring large companies and then selling them at a much higher price. (According to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, in 1919, Hatry "bought Leyland Motors for a reputed 350,000 and immediately resold it for double that figure").

    By the mid-1920s, Clarence Hatry had built up a financial empire. Hatry had a particular interest in automatic machines and photography. In 1927, a British investment group had purchased the rights to distribute the Photomaton automatic photo machines in Europe and Canada. The following year, Hatry acquired the Photomaton company and established the Photomaton Parent Corporation and the Far Eastern Photomaton Corporation.

    Clarence Hatry had ambitious plans for the Photomaton, arranging for hundreds of the automatic photo machines to be installed at British railway stations and amusement arcades. Hatry had, however, over-stretched himself financially. Hatry borrowed huge sums of money from banks on the security of forged certificates and duplicated company shares. It emerged that Hatry's business empire was bankrupt and on 29th September 1929, the London Stock Exchange suspended trading in shares belonging to the Hatry group of companies. Hatry responded by confessing to fraud.

    Clarence Hatry was found guilty of financial fraud and forgery and sentenced to 14 years imprisonment, of which he served 9 years. Clarence Hatry's conviction and the collapse of the Hatry business empire signalled the end of the Photomaton in Britain, but the introduction of other automatic photo machines, such as those installed by Photoweigh Limited, ensured that the coin-operated photobooth had a future in this country.

    [ABOVE] Clarence Charles Hatry (1888-1965), the financier and company promoter who set up the Photomaton Parent Corporation in Britain in 1928. Hatry was fascinated by automatic machines and the recent developments in photographic technology. Hatry invested heavily in the promotion and installation of Photomaton machines in Britain and abroad. (Hatry also headed the Far Eastern Photomaton Corporation). The City suspected that Hatry's Photomaton companies were seriously overvalued and it soon became clear that Hatry's aim to place a Photomaton machine in every major town and city was going to place a severe strain on his financial resources. Hatry's attempt to keep his business empire afloat by fraud and forgery led to disaster and he ended up receiving a 14 year prison sentence and being incarcerated for 9 years.

    [ABOVE] Henry Morgenthau photographed in 1927 seated at Anatol Josepho's  Photomaton , the first reliable coin-operated automatic photo machine. Anatol Josepho sold the American rights to the Photomaton process to Morgenthau and his business syndicate for one million dollars in 1927. The same year, a group of British investors purchased the rights to distribute the Photomaton automatic photo machines in Europe and Canada. In 1928, the British financier Clarence Hatry acquired the Photomaton Company and formed the Photomaton Parent Corporation.

     

    A Brief History of the Automatic Photograph

    The first steps in automated photography were taken in the year 1889, when Mathew Stiffens of Chicago patented an "automatic photography machine" and Monsieur Ernest Enjalbert demonstrated his coin-operated, automatic tintype machine at the Exposition Universelle, the World's Fair which opened in Paris in May 1889. The automatic photographic machines invented by Mathew Stiffens and Ernest Enjalbert produced photographic portraits on a metal strip (i.e. a ferrotype or "tintype"). During the early 1890s, a German inventor named Conrad Bernitt perfected an automatic photograph machine which he marketed as the Bosco Photographie-Automat. As with the machines devised by Mathew Stiffens in the United States and Ernest Enjalbert in France, Bernitt's Bosco Automat produced photographic portraits on metal, then generally known as ferrotypes.

    In 1896, Carl Sasse of Vienna patented an "Apparatus for the Automatic Production of Photographs". In his patent application, Carl Sasse stated that the object of his invention was "to produce photographs automatically by the insertion of a certain coin". It appears that Sasse's invention involved a photographic negative and produced photographs on paper.

    During the first decade of the 20th century, a number of photographers and inventors attempted to devise a mechanism which could produce a set of small photographic portraits on a narrow strip of photographic paper. By 1911, Spiridione Grossi, a Liverpool-born photographer, was producing strips of "Sticky Back" portraits at his studio in North Street, Brighton, but the apparatus was hand-operated and required the presence of a cameraman.

    The first fully automatic photo-booth, which produced several photographic portraits on strips of photographic paper, opened to the public in New York City during the Summer of 1925. The inventor of the automatic photo booth, Anatol Marco Josepho (1894-1980) created a machine that produced a strip of 8 good quality photographic portraits in 8 minutes.

    [ABOVE] An engraved illustration depicting Ernest Enjalbert's automatic photography machine which he exhibited at the  Exposition Universelle  in Paris in May 1889. Although Enjalbert's coin-operated machine was novel, it proved to be disappointing. According to contemporary accounts, the machines were unreliable and subject to mechanical breakdown. The resulting ferrotype photographs were tiny and of poor quality.

     

    Automatic Portraits taken by Photoweigh Machines on the Pleasure Piers of Sussex Seaside Resorts

    [ABOVE] A Photoweigh portrait taken on Brighton's Palace Pier in 1951. It appears that Photoweigh Ltd operated in Brighton from around 1933 until 1972. [ABOVE] The inside of the Photoweigh folder illustrated on the left, showing how it contained both the negative and the positive print. The photographic print carries the words "Photoweigh Ltd, Palace Pier, Brighton" and gives the year as 1951.

    [ABOVE] A Photoweigh automatic portrait, photographed in a kiosk in Hastings in 1937.  Inscribed in ink on the on the reverse of the photographic strip is the date "17/5/1937". The sitter is identified in pencilled handwriting as "Aunt Mabel".

    The Photoweigh machine took a photograph of the customer as he or she sat on a weighing machine. The 1933 edition (Volume 80) of the British Journal of Photography lists Photoweigh Limited as a company registered on 1st June 1933 with the object "to carry on the business of manufacturers and dealers in optical, scientific, photographic and industrial instruments, cinematograph and other films, projectors, cameras and magic lanterns, etc.".

    [ABOVE] A Photoweigh automatic portrait, photographed on Brighton's Palace Pier in 1954. The subject of the photograph is a young Simon Pettitt. Photoweigh Ltd. had operated an automatic photo-kiosk in Brighton since the early 1930s.

    In his 1938 novel "Brighton Rock", the writer Graham Green mentions that the Photoweigh kiosk was located in the tunnel under the Palace Pier : "the noisiest, lowest, cheapest section of Brighton's amusements. A Photoweigh booth, owned by George Keeble, was situated on Brighton's Palace Pier until 1972.

    [PHOTO: Courtesy of Simon Pettitt]

    [ABOVE] A Photoweigh double portrait of Cliff Groves (right) and his friend Gil Topping (left) on Brighton's Palace Pier in 1964. Clifford Groves, who still lives in Brighton,  explains the circumstances in which the photo was taken: "We were both working the summer season on the Palace Pier. In the "Palace of Fun" there were no gaming machines only what we called "gaffs". These were very similar to fairground stalls. Gil was running a bingo stall and I was on air rifles. The mods and rockers were creating havoc on the seafront the day the smudge (photo) was taken and it was (as the Chinese say) an interesting time - battles galore!"

    [PHOTO: Courtesy of Clifford Groves]

     

    Coin-operated Automatic Photo Booths -Successors to Anatol Josepho's Photomaton - the first practical self operating photo-machine

    Photomatic (1947)

    Photomat (1952) 

    Post Office Digital Photobooth (2008)

     

    Acknowledgements & Sources and Recommended Websites

    I am indebted to Jonathan Walker and his wife Bettina Walker, for providing the biographical details for Abraham Dudkin and other members of the Dudkin Family. Bettina Walker is the grand-daughter of Abraham Dudkin. Jonathan Walker is the son-in-law of the late Lewis Stanley Dudkin (1909-2005), the son of Abraham Dudkin. I am grateful to Bettina Walker, the daughter of Lewis Stanley Dudkin, for allowing me to feature some of the Dudkin family photographs on this website. Information provided by Natalie Brustin, the daughter of Mrs Bluma Nass (Abraham Dudkin's younger sister) has proved very useful.

    PRIMARY SOURCES:

    Census returns : 1881, 1891, 1901, 1911 ; Brighton, Sussex and Hampshire Trade Directories:  Kelly's Directory of Sussex (1911, 1913, 1915, 1918, 1922, 1924, 1930, 1934, 1938) ; Kelly's Directory of Hampshire (1915, 1920, 1923, 1927). Newspapers, Journals & Magazines: Modern Mechanics and Inventions (November,1928) ; New York Times (28th March,1927) ; Photo-Era Magazine (December,1927) ; British Journal of Photography (1929) ; American Hebrew & Jewish Messenger (22nd April,1927) ; Time magazine (4th April 1927) ; Chemist & Druggist (1928) ; Office Appliances (1927) ; The Wellington Evening Post (24th June 1929 - 2nd January 1930] on the National Library of New Zealand's website Papers Past.

    OTHER SOURCES:

    Books: "American Photobooth" by Nakki Goranin (Norton and Company, 2008) ; "Photobooth" by Babbette Hines (Princeton Architectural Press, 2002) ;

    Newspapers and News websites: The History of the Photobooth by Nakki Goranin on the Telegraph website (7th March 2008); A Picture and a Thousand Words a review of American Photobooth by Ryan Bigge in the Toronto Star  (30th March 2008); 'American Photo Booth' Illuminates History Of Invention, Enterprise And Marketing In Coin Industry's Early Years by Tom Sanford on the Vending Times website (February 2008);

    Articles on websites: The Photobooth: Timeless Self-Portrait Vending Machine (10th August 2006) by Tim Garrett on teachingphoto.com

    Articles in Journals, Magazines and Exhibition Catalogues: "Penniless Invetor Gets Million for Photo Machine" by Orville H. Kneen in the magazine Modern Mechanics and Inventions (November 1928) ; PHOTOBOOTH: History and Development by Bern Boyle in the catalogue for the exhibition "Photomaton: a contemporary survey of photobooth art" at the Pyramid Arts Center, Rochester, New York (November,1987), reproduced on Wade Tinney's Photobooth.org website.

    Websites: Records on Family Search website ; Registers of Births, Marriages & Deaths at the FreeBMD website ; National Archives website ; bernardinai.lt

    Websites devoted to Photo Booths and Photobooth Photos: Photobooth.net - an excellent website, created and maintained by Brian Meacham and Tim Garrett, devoted to all aspects of the photo-booth. Photobooth.org, a website created by Wade Tinney, which features modern photo-booth photographs in Wade's Photobooth Gallery and a section on the history of automatic photo booths. Mark Bloch has provided a useful article entitled "Behind the Curtain: A History of the Photobooth" on his website Panmodern.com. Katherine Griffiths displays her fascinating collection of photobooth photos on her Photobooth Journal blog. [See below for a link to Katherine's website]

     

     

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    Click here to go to a Webpage Index to Automatic Photographs and Photobooth Photos on Sussex PhotoHistory

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    LINKS TO WEBSITES WHICH FEATURE AUTOMATIC PHOTOGRAPHS AND PHOTOBOOTH PHOTOS

    Katherine Griffiths, an Australian collector of vintage photographs, has created a fascinating blog entitled Photobooth Journal which documents her life in the form of a long-running series of photobooth photos. Katherine includes photobooth photos of herself, friends and members of her family, but she also features photobooth portraits of complete strangers; 'found photos' which have been rescued or salvaged after being discarded by the original sitters. On Katherine's Photobooth Journal blog you will also find classic photobooth portraits from the 1930s, police force mugshots, images of photobooth tokens, artworks inspired by or created with photobooth portraits, and much, much more. I can recommend a visit to Katherine's wonderful blog and photo archive. You can access Photobooth Journal by clicking on the link below:

    Photobooth Journal

     

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