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Hi Matt:

There used to be a picture booth in the arcade inside Mission Valley mall-- one of the good, old-fashioned ones that printed a vertical column of four successive shots. My little sister and I, for the past couple of years, have been stopping at that booth every time she's in town to create a funny souvenir. But now it's gone. We asked at the information desk, but the glazed-over looks of the information gals let us know that we would need to take this to a grander authority. I don't want one of those moronic Your-Pic-as-a-San Diego-Postcard machines or one that prints the same image on six dozen worthless stickers. I want a simple classic picture booth.

-- Autumn Hancy, the net

Jeepers, Autumn! You and Sis put on your angora sweaters and pedal pushers and pony on down to the Museum of Photographic Arts in Balboa Park. You can inaugurate their new old-fashioned photo booth in the bookstore. (Actually, booths plural. One color, one b&w.) They're straight out of the '50s and use the traditional chemical developing system; they're not the digital look-alikes. A strip of four shots for $2. You'll feel just like Pinky Tuscadero.

Early photo machines (ca. 1912) took tintype pictures. You sat on a chair, dropped a dime in a slot, and positioned your head. The dime rolled over the on-switch, and a tintype disk rolled down a chute and landed behind the lens. This triggered the lights and released the shutter. Then the tintype rolled into a shallow dish with developing fluid from a top-mounted tank. When your smiley face appeared on the disk, the attendant (or you) stuck it in an electric drying device. The whole process took about a minute. Enlargements also could be made right in the machine

Since the digital '70s, chemical photo booths have faded away. Not whiz-bang enough for today's imagination-challenged youth, I guess. And environmental laws make them a pain; you can't dump old developer down the sink any more. So MoPA is the place for you and Sis to be, unless you want a burger and a shake too, in which case, go to the Corvette Diner in Hillcrest. True to their theme, they also have a photo booth.

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