Christian Marclay × ECAL

Photo booth
29.03 – 02.06.2024

Four portraits taken by a machine and printed in just a few minutes! This is the experience offered by the photo booth since its invention in 1924. It was an immediate success, particularly with the proliferation of identity documents requiring a portrait complying with specific standards (bare head, uniform background, neutral expression, etc.).

Few people are unfamiliar with the experience of the "Photomaton", the name of the photo booth often found in train stations. Automated, self-service, available 24/7, socially neutral and, above all, less expensive than a portrait taken by a professional–and less intimidating as well–this photographic process popularized the experience of having a portrait taken, quickly, anywhere and inexpensively. The precursor of the Polaroid and the selfie, formed from the words "photo" and "automaton", this unmanned process, a veritable photographer's automaton, offering four unique prints, fascinated artists. In 1929, André Breton and his Surrealist friends were already interested in this image box.



Photo Elysée, which showcases a wide range of techniques from the history of photography, acquired an automated photo studio a few years back. Since then, the museum has offered the public the opportunity to photograph themselves and, if they wish, to leave their portraits, thus creating a collective archive (over 2,000 snapshots have been collected to date).

The artist, Christian Marclay, invited by the museum to immerse himself in the Photo Elysée collections in 2021, chose to explore these thousands of faces recorded by the museum's Photomaton. With him, ECAL photography students explored, scanned and metamorphosed the preserved prints. The idea of the project was to appropriate the analogous images and to open them up to new experiments in order to tell new stories. Visitors are invited to take a seat in front of the various installations and let themselves be carried away by new visual sequences born of varied explorations ranging from simple mechanics to the latest digital tools.


In a closed place in an open space, protected only by a curtain, the photo booth is situated somewhere between the private and the public realm. On an adjustable stool to regulate the height of your head, having rearranged your hair for the last time, concentrated before the flash, seated in front of the mirror, curtain drawn, you are both present and removed from the world. The photo booth offers a confined space for free expression, where you can smile, make faces, pose for the camera... You're emancipated, but only when the machine is watching you. Whether individually or in a group, this place becomes a playground and questions identity.

Christian Marclay

Christian Marclay (USA/Switzerland, 1955) has been developing a unique body of work since the late 1970s, exploring the juxtaposition of sound recording, photography, video and film. A multimedia artist, his work is at the crossroads of several genres, from acoustic performance to still and moving images, and collage.

Like a DJ, the artist fragments, assembles and reassembles vinyl records, record covers and other objects to superimpose auditory or visual effects. The Centre Pompidou in Paris recently presented a major retrospective of his work.

ECAL students

The exhibition presented at Photo Elysée includes works by Bachelor Photography students from ECAL.

Exhibition views


Exhibition with the support of