1, 2, 3 smile!

Old-style photo booth scores on Market Street

Thursday, Nov. 16, 2006


Click here to enlarge this photo
Bill Ryan⁄The Gazette
Chris McKenna of Frederick poses for a fun shot before having his photo taken for an international driver’s license at the Cinegraphics Studios vintage photo strip machine at the store in Frederick.





Taking a trip back in time is as simple as pulling a curtain, perching on a stool, waiting for the red blinking light, and making goofy faces.

Best of all, the trip costs just $3, and you have four wallet-sized snapshots as souvenirs.

For the over-40 crowd, cramming into a photo booth with as many friends as you can fit is a trip down memory lane. For the younger set, it is a cool new trend.

Though they are making a comeback, finding the vintage booths that use old-school ‘‘dip and dunk” processing to spit out a strip of black and whites is not easy.

In Maryland, photobooth.net lists just three – one in Baltimore and two at Greenbelt malls. But you don’t have to travel far for the fun thanks to Cinegraphic Studios on Market Street.

The notable downtown novelty store bills itself as ‘‘silly things for silly people,” and it does not disappoint. From talking Trailer Trash Dolls, to custom postcards made from vintage movies, to toilet paper featuring the face of George W. Bush, the ‘‘one part artsy, two part fartsy” store is the brainchild of Eric Krasner, 45.

Don’t be fooled, though, by the irreverent, often downright scandalous items on display. Krasner is a gushy sentimentalist when it comes to pop culture nostalgia. Growing up in the ‘60s and ‘70s in the D.C. suburbs of Montgomery County was a golden age for Krasner, photo booths included.

‘‘This brings back so many memories for me. We’d go to Rehobeth Beach for vacation and every day we’d get pictures taken in the booths with our beach buddies,” he said. ‘‘Of course, it was only a quarter then.”

True to form, however, Krasner, has added some flair to the old-style fun. A box of props includes a red Pope hat, a giant nun, oversized glasses, hats and, of course – a rubber chicken.

‘‘There is nothing funnier than a rubber chicken,” said Caroline Gilpin, emerging from the booth with friend Jen Chickering.

Just minutes prior, the college sophomores were reduced to giggling preteens as they tried on a plastic silver doll wig, rhinestone glasses and silly hats before deciding on their getups and popping behind the curtain.

With only their sneakered feet on view, their squeals and laughs punctuated by the flash of the camera, the pair made anything but pretty faces.

‘‘Oh gosh, that was awesome,” Chickering said, waiting for the 12 developing tanks to do their job and send out the prints.

Chickering, from Hood College, was entertaining Gilpin, who hails from Boston. Now, they said, they have a unique keepsake from Gilpin’s visit.

Not all visitors to the booth are quite so enthusiastic. Mayor W. Jeff Holtzinger (R) who was lured off the street into the booth by Krasner.

Krasner has Holtzinger’s mug posted on the Photo Me booth, along with other local notables, including long-time columnist Roy Meachum and his devoted dalmation, Pushkin, and Frederick’s chief of police, Kim C. Dine.

Holtzinger detests the spotlight, and his pictures look straight out of America’s Most Wanted.

‘‘He didn’t even wait for his pictures to be developed,” Krasner laughed.

Holtzinger’s colleague, Alderman David ‘‘Kip” Koontz (D), was a lot more relaxed, what you can see of him, that is. Posing with a new puppy presents its own challenges as the photos reveal.

Krasner likes it when the photos tell a story – like the bell ringer for the Baker Park Carillon posing with a bell beside his head. Or the one from a young lady who made her intentions known by holding up a different sign in each shot: Mike. I. Love. You.

A real coup for Krasner are the photos of Count Gore De Vol. Yes, nostalgia fans, the host of WDCA Channel 20s Creature Feature throughout the ‘70s and a portion of the ‘80s is ghoulishly resplendent in black and white on the side of the Photo Me booth.

From giggling teens to stern politicians to Pope wannabes to tipsy seniors, the Photo Me booth has seen it all and then some.

‘‘It depends on how much people have had to drink before they come in,” Krasner said. ‘‘I have seen some items of the clothing on the floor,” he added with a knowing nod.

What happens in the booth stays in the booth, at least until the shots are processed. The booth gets used every day, with weekends being the busiest time.

Krasner does not mind that the booth takes up valuable retail space. It attracts new customers, who at the very least look around for the five minutes it takes to process the photos.

Yes, he could have opted for the newfangled digital color booths where you can put your head on someone else’s body, or paint a mustache on yourself or put a gilded frame around your head.

‘‘It all depends on what you remember and what you cherish. Color fades over the years. Black and white doesn’t,” he said.

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