Once upon a time, Fotomat was a widespread suburban phenomenon in the United States. With over 4,000 drive-through photo kiosks mainly located at parking lots nearby supermarkets or strip malls, their appearance characterizes the suburban spirit of the mid-eighties. Most of these remarkable Fotomat kiosks have been abandoned since the service provided by the company is not really up-to-date any more. As a result, the company quit its activities.
Fotomats were distinctive for their pyramid-shaped gold-colored roofs and signs with red-lettering, usually positioned in a large parking area. Fotomat huts required a minimal amount of land and were able to accommodate cars driving up to drop off or pick up film.
The Fotomat kiosk is a great example of how a technological development in consumer products can affect spatial appearance and finally abandon a complete building type. A group on Flickr, which consists of vintage urbanists and nostalgists, collects great pictures of the remaining Fotomat kiosks. They are still all very much the same in their basic principles. Mainly, I assume, because Fotomat was a country-wide (franchise) chain. The different color pallets of all single kiosks point to a wide range of different functions after Fotomat’s decay. Meanwhile, some have been turned into a ‘coffee to go’ kiosk, sno palace, key service or allround drive-through cigarette store. Others have remained empty waiting for a new mini-entrepreneur.
The over time development of Fotomat kiosks prove that kiosks are very flexible in terms of usage. One single tiny building could be used for basic services like mentioned above, but also for more unique business concepts, such as the original Fotomat idea. I’m sure that there will be many other drive-in and drive-through services to provide at shopping mall parking lots. Pictures were taken from Flickr. Thanks to Scottamus, Dreamyshade, Muledriver and Roadsidepictures.