The last time I was in Paris Mr. Misadventures and I had so much fun chasing down the Foto Automat booths in Paris! We didn’t get to them all but we sure did enjoy the effort!
These vintage photo booths are different from the standard ones you see in metro stations in Paris. Those are for photos for passports, official documents, or identity cards. The last time we used one of them was for our 1-year Bateau Mouche passes.
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No. These are purely for the fun of it!
I became aware of their existence a few years ago when Anne Stark Ditmeyer of Prêt à Voyager shared a photo of one on Instagram. I started following their account and knew I wanted to check them out in person on a future trip. (By the way, I appeared in Prêt à Voyager’s Boarding Pass series years ago!)
We’ve all seen them, and probably experienced them at some type of event. Photo booths have gained a lot of popularity over the years, and are often a fun place to break out of your shell and let go of the pressure of being in front of the camera. More than anything, photo booths are an experience to capture a memorable stay in a foreign city or an evening with long-lost friends.
From beginning to end, photo booths are an experience that one seldom forgets, from entering the booth and perfecting your expressions before the flash goes off, to reminiscing about those moments years later.
Although living in the moment is the best, how can you ever say no to immortalizing your fun moments with classic photos on a strip taken in a vintage photo booth in the dazzling city of Paris? Notoriously hidden in plain sight, Paris has seen a rise in the number of vintage photo booths popping up everywhere. But how did they become so popular and when did it all begin?
A brief history of Foto Automats in Paris
Photo booths have been around for decades. The very first patent for the automatic photography machine was filed in 1888 in the United States, but the first working photographic machine was invented by a Frenchman in 1889 and showcased at the 1889 World’s Fair in Paris. After numerous patents and ‘truly working’ machines, the photo booth closest to the ones we have today, appeared in 1925 on Broadway in New York. That booth took, developed, and printed eight photos for 25 cents within 10 minutes.
It was only a matter of time when someone decided to bring these strips of photos back to the 21st century. Abundant and popular in Berlin, Foto Automats (not to be confused with Photomaton) came to Paris in 2007 and has been a hit ever since. Foto Automats have restored and restyled the vintage photo booths by giving them a stunning and unique exterior.
The first booth popped up in France in September 2007 at Palais de Tokyo where it stays and takes pictures in pure black and white. It was brought by Eddy Bourgeois, the director of Foto Automats France. The booths are usually found in places surrounded by art and culture. The photos from these booths follow the traditional path and go through silver development, ensuring the photo quality remains stable for the next century, at least.
Paris is known to have discretion flowing through its veins, so what better way to take a selfie that no one actually sees you take than the one in a Foto Automat?
Where to Find Foto Automats in Paris
When in Paris, forget the traditional selfie experience of the cramped spaces with their single flash, a rotating stool, and half a dozen fun filters. The Fotoautomats are scattered across town and are not particularly easy to find but I’ve tracked down some of the best and the most fun vintage photo booths in the city of light.
Montmartre: The Foto Automat Studio
This booth can easily be wrapped into a day exploring Montmartre. We visited the area around Sacré–Cœur in the morning, stopped for coffee at Le Bimbo, and then hit the Foto Automat. Be wary of the cranky neighborhood that lives in the building across the street. If she thinks you are too close to her car while taking photos she’ll yell at you. (Little did she know who she was messing with when it comes to crossing paths with Mr. Misadventures!) Anyway, this booth is also the site for the Foto Automat office although it was closed when we passed by for photos.
Location: The Montmartre Foto Automat booth and studio is located at 53 Rue des Trois Frères in the 18th Arrondissement. It takes black and white photos with black and white stripes which cost 3€. The studio is a great spot for hosting exhibitions, workshops, and concerts.
Le Pavilion Puebla
We hunted around for this one, losing our way in Buttes Chaumont before finally finding it. This is a very large park with lots of things to see and do (it was also featured in Lupin Netflix series) and the booth is not out in the open but rather on the bottom of the backside of the Pavilion Puebla restaurant and event space (owned by the same folks who run the Le Perchoir rooftop bars throughout Paris).
Originally in service until 1986 in Montreal. Reassembled and placed in Paris in 2010.
Location: Le Pavilion Puebla is closest to Avenue Darcelin the Parc des Buttes Chaumont (when the park is closed you have to access it via 39 Simon Bolivar Avenue) in the 19th Arrondissement. It takes black and white photos with black and white stripes which cost 3€.
I was excited to visit the newly opened La Samaritaine especially since I knew there was a photo booth inside. We visited the store and stopped accidentally by a different photo booth sponsored by another company that was giving away photos before we realized we were at the wrong one!
The Foto Automat booth is on the first floor, in the right corner if you enter from the door on Rue de Rivoli. The machine was out of order when we visited so I didn’t get an opportunity for photos from the actual booth.
Location: On the ground floor of La Samaritaine (9 Rue de la Monnaie, there is an entrance on the Rue de Rivoli that is closer to the booth, across the street from 140 Rue de Rivoli) in the 1st Arrondissement. It takes black and white photos with black and white stripes which cost 3€.
Le Palais de Tokyo
You need to pay to enter the museum. The museum doesn’t open until noon (closed on Tuesdays) which is late for us. We usually start super early in the morning and couldn’t find a convenient way to plan for visiting this one.
We wanted to access the museum for its terrace and Eiffel Tower view and when we finally made it there we forgot to stop at the photo booth!
Location: The Le Palais de Tokyo Foto Automat booth is located at 13 Av du Président Wilson in the 16th Arrondissement and was added in September 2007. It takes black and white photos which cost 3€.
Le Centquatre is a cultural center/museum with exhibits and beautiful architecture. Mr. Misadventures and I have visited on a previous trip but didn’t pay attention to the photo booth at the time. We didn’t return to this spot on our last trip, so we will have to get it next time!
Location: Le Centquatre Foto Automat photo booth is located at 5 Rue Curial in the 19th Arrondissement. Direct access via Café Caché at 104 Rue d’Aubervilliers.
La Philharmonie de Paris
This photo booth started its life in Grand Palais and was moved to La Cité de la Musique Philharmonie de Paris in 2018. It is unique in that it is open on both sides with a rear window for different backgrounds and a rear flash. The Philharmonie is not just a concert hall but also a museum so you don’t have to attend an event to get a photo although, why not?
Location: The Foto Automat photo booth is located in the La Philharmonie de Paris at 221 Av Jean Jaurès in 19th Arrondissement.
This one first appeared at the La Maison Rouge (10 Bld de la Bastille) inthe 12th Arrondissement in 2011 but moved to the Musée d’Art Naïf in 2018. I have wanted to visit the Halle Saint-Pierre for a while because the building is so cool looking, but haven’t made it yet. Maybe completing my collection of Foto Automat photos will be the driving force to get me there!
Location: This photo booth is in the Halle Saint Pierre in the Musée d’Art Naïf in Montmartre at 2 Rue Ronsard in the 18th Arrondissement.
In Paris but not accessible to the public!
- Studio 7L (7 Rue de Lille) in the 7th Arrondissement (2011) Not accessible to the general public.
- France: Lieu Unique (2 Quai Ferdinand Favre) in Nantes added in September 2012.
- Czech Republic: Nova Scena in the Theatre National de Prague and La Pepite in the Galerie Nationale de Prague.
Fear not. If you can’t get to Paris to try these vintage photo booths out for yourself, follow their account on Instagram for inspiration. I haven’t made it to all of them yet, but one can dream!
If you are heading to Paris you can also find more information (in French) on the Foto Automat website.
How about you? Have you taken a photo in one of Foto Automat’s vintage photo booths in Paris? Do tell!
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