The Charm of Vintage Photo Booths  // Hope

The Charm of Vintage Photo Booths // Hope

Everyone close to me knows how much I love vintage, analog, photo booths and they know that when we come across one, they will have to sit and pose with me ... and sit and wait as I pose by myself for a strip or two … and then sit and wait the 5 minutes it takes for the machine to develop the photos. Sadly, there are fewer and fewer of the analog photo booths that I love in the world. In the United States there are less than 1,500, and with the pandemic it may be even less than that. 

The modern digital photo booths that most encounter these days are great to document a moment as well, but they lack that certain je ne sais quoi that their analog ancestors give me. Often I need to explain the difference to people - the main one being that a vintage analog booth develops the photos inside while you wait whereas a digital booth prints it in seconds. The quality is not the same with the modern machines (nor the smell, you cannot mistake the smell of the chemicals used to develop actual film!). While there are also color vintage photo booths out there, I gravitate to the classic black and white booths.

I have vintage photo booth strips going back to when I was in high school, but I really started to seek them out again as an adult about 15 years ago after I encountered one with friends while visiting Portland, Oregon. Ever since, my fridge has been covered with vintage photo booth strips with my partner and friends, but I also use them in my journals.

I love that each photo booth I encounter is different and the exposure of the photos is different as well, each with its own quirks and style. This ends up giving fun variation that adds to any visual spread I use them in, which is part of the charm the essence of analog has for me.

I do a lot of journaling for self-growth, so having photos of myself helps document where I am in my journey in those spreads. I use them in my everyday journals often.

I also have been keeping what I refer to as an agenda journal for almost a decade and a half. These are used not to record what I will be doing, but to document what I have done. Each year I start a new one, mixing up the types of journals I use. Whenever I encounter a vintage photo booth I always document the occasion in these journals by adding at least one photo from a strip inside. 

I love to travel and I enjoy creating souvenir journals for the trips I take. On a visit to London in 2019, we stayed in a hotel that had a vintage photo booth in the lobby, so I made sure we posed for a strip every morning before exploring the city and used them as part of documenting each day in my handmade ringed journal.  Having these analog records of my life bring me great joy, and I look back on these journals often.

Sometimes I like to use the photos from the analog booth in different formats than they are presented from the booth. I always scan the strips at a high resolution (at least 400 dpi) so if I wish to have them reprinted to be larger (or smaller) I can.  One example is how I printed a 4x6 photo and cut myself out to use on a spread in my Passport Travelers Notebook art journal about what goes on in my head. I made it a sub-flap that lifts up to reveal all that is bouncing around in there.

Another art journal I like to create is what I call a #reverb journal, where I do a prompt a day for the month of December recapping the year and setting intentions for the year to follow. Day fifteen’s question asks ‘What was your favorite photo taken of yourself (or by you) this year?’ Many years my answer is a vintage photo booth photo. I like to use a mix of the actual photo strips and reprints – both smaller or larger to fill the page.

I end up accumulating a lot of photo strips and a couple years ago I started using a 3×8 chipboard ringed album with pocket inserts to hold them in chronological order. The sleeves are the perfect size to hold many strips at a time if needed.

However, with the Travelers Company’s recent release of a black paper insert, I decided to start using a Travelers Notebook to store strips. I use classic photo corners to attach them to the pages, which lends an old school photo album look. The strips fit perfectly on a regular sized Travelers Notebook page, and the photo corners allow me to add full strips, partial strips, or single photos as needed. 

Upon opening this journal, I recreated the photo slot from an analog photo booth and resized a scanned photo strip to slip in on the first page.

As you can imagine, documenting my life and creating art journals over all these years, I have accumulated a lot of journals! Many of them are Travelers Notebook covers going back over a decade, with my current favorites on display to easily grab when needed.

I have amassed a large collection of inserts and needed to figure out a good way to archive them. Staying true to my aesthetics, I started storing them in antique wooden crates, turning to larger ones each time one gets filled.

One of my favorite quotes is from the book A Life of Style by Rebecca Moses, “Remember: it’s the imperfections that make the charm.” This quote is part of what draws me to these vintage analog photo booths, and to documenting life in the pages of my journals as well. I like sharing the real, imperfect bits that make up the fabric of a life well-lived. 

- Text and Photos by: Hope Wallace

Where to find Hope:

Instagram: @besottment 

Bk Artifacts Featured:


  • Gidget Kelsey: February 23, 2022
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    I loved this look into your journals and your style. Thank you so much.

  • PE: February 08, 2022
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    What a great Commentary. Years ago I lamented the scarcity of these booths while wandering SF. I will actively seek them out when I wander in 2022! It would be a wonderful moment to share with my Children. Thank you for kindling excitement <3

    It would be nice to know where in Portland this Booth is? Perhaps a Blog out there has Addresses to them

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