Myself and my friends were born and bred in suburban West London, writes Mark Charnock. In our mid teen years Greenford and Ealing Broadway stations were our links to hipper parts of London, for trips to Portobello Road, Kensington Market and Soho. On these trips, like many youths we were drawn to the photo booths to be found in the corners of stations and branches of Woolworths.
For many, these booths were just a way to fulfil the obligation to have their images on Passports and travel passes. Where as for us, at that age between park play and pub, it was another place to muck about. Also to pose, show off new gear, new hair cuts or on occasion new girlfriends and as it turned out, future wives.
On the outside of many early 80s booths were examples of pictures taken, posed by models, I assume. One image was of a chap giving a jolly wave and replicating this pose became our default position when thoughts of a new pose deserted us.
Maybe its an lazy comparison, but these small, manly black and white, photos were the selfies of their time. Capturing youthful exuberance, fun and also self awareness.
Although maybe the similarities end there as our youth was shot through the prism of a crap lens in a chemistry laden box, rather than through a phone with tech that may have taken you to the moon back then. And for us, instead of a landmark or preening celeb as a backdrop, we only had the choice of white wall or grey curtain as our background.
Many of the passport pictures ended up blu-tacked to adolescent bedroom walls or were given to partners of the past or just plan lost, but many I kept and in fact some friends give me some to add to the collection. 35 years on they are a slightly melancholy, but manly positive reminder of those early 80s years. Those years of riots, mean Tory governments and demonisation of youth… sounds familiar doesn’t it.
A few inhabitants of the photo booth time machine, have moved on; the majority I am still in touch with, allbeit some are in far flung places, such as Newcastle (Wey aye man, Andy) and Toyko (Konnichiwa, Lee).
As for myself, in a small way it pointed me towards a career in Photography and I took many shots of these friends and others all thru the 80s and some were picked up by an agency and have gone on to be used by the likes of Fred Perry & Ben Sherman. I also have some of the original prints for sale (plug over).
Cheers all, with a jolly wave