Book Review: Photobooth: A Biography

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Meags Fitzgerald, 280 pgs, Conundrum Press,conundrumpress.com, $20

This graphic novel tells the story of interdisciplinary artist Meags Fitzgerald’s unexpected love affair with “boothing,” as she becomes addicted to tracking down photobooths in the wild (in malls, at train stations, etc.) and letting them capture her in moment. Very quickly, her interest in photobooths evolves, first into an artistic quest, and then into an anthropological endeavour. She travels the world seeking to experience and learn about as many different varieties of photobooths as she can, as well as the unique and independent cultures that have spawned around their existence. On the technical side of things, Fitzgerald takes the narrative all the way back to the invention of the Daguerreotype in 1839, documenting the advances in photographic technology that eventually led to the construction of the world’s first photobooth, which opened in New York City in September of 1925. The book quickly reveals itself to be a three-way biography: of the photobooth’s evolution, of the nations and cultures documented by the existence of photobooths, and of the author as she discovers what photobooths mean to her both as an artist and a person.Using the graphic novel format to tremendous effect, Fitzgerald has created a tertiary layer of personality. Many of the book’s images are carefully rendered translations of actual photographs. This technique acts as a filter that slips between the text and the images to offer the reader a degree of subjective truth that might otherwise have been lost. Additionally, through both her illustrative work and her colourful-yet tothe- point writing, Fitzgerald manages to make every character — major, minor, historical — feel unique and important. Fitzgerald has crafted a book that pays loving tribute to this endangered artistic pursuit while simultaneously being a work of art itself. (Andrew Wilmot)

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