Photobooth: A Biography

Created by Meags Fitzgerald
Published by Conundrum Press

Often, our lives seem to be defined by an outside force. Something that is so powerful, so meaningful to a person that it becomes a part of them. It’s a thing that people think of when they think of you, it’s an all-consuming passion that those outside of your particular niche corner may never understand. For many of you reading this, it’s comics. For others, it’s bands, or movies, or one of a billion other things that we may never even think about. For Meags Fitzgerald, it is photobooths.

Writing an autobiography focusing around a certain aspect of one’s own life (or obsession) is not a terribly new idea. Grant Morrison did it with Supergods, in which he delves deep into the history of comics and describes his lifelong love affair with them (and drugs). Mike Dawson talks about an intense obsession with Queen in his debut book Freddie and Me.

But these are fairly broad topics, things that we all enjoy and can all appreciate. Fitzgerald cries out the unsung praises of the photobooth with her book, a topic that I had personally never considered. She impressed me with this work for many reasons, not the least of which was how she managed to keep such an obscure topic interesting by showing how they impacted not only her life, but the lives of many of the people around her and an entire subculture that is apparently hidden in plain sight.

The photobooth, a novelty to most, became so intertwined with Fitzgerald’s life that she is able to juxtapose the story their history and her own without making it feel awkward or forced. Her art is nothing short of excellent, with black and white ink illustrations that brings subject matter that would normally be somewhat drab to life and renderings of photobooth pictures in pencil that come close to capturing the look and feel of the real things. Fitzgerald digs deep into the world of photobooths, exploring locations around the world and the people who are passionate about them, as well as the history and technical aspects of the machines, all while remaining relevant to her own life. She truly gets across how important these objects were to her, both to her development as an artist and the choices she has made.

Photobooth: A Biography was an unexpectedly interesting read. Fitzgerald’s passion for photobooths is clear throughout the book, giving the whole thing the fascinating qualities that come whenever someone talks about what they love. The proof of Fitzgerald’s talent, though, comes not in her passion. I feel that good art makes the consumer want to create, and when I was done with Photobooth, I put down the book feeling learned, wanting to explore, and inspired to create my own art.