When Did All the Michigan Fotomats Disappear?
Go up to anyone under 30 and ask “what's a Fotomat?” and you'll get blank stares. Not only that, but when you attempt to explain what Fotomats were, half the time they may not believe you.
Do you know what a Fotomat is?
Um... a new photo app?
An automatic photo?
I give up.
It was a little shack in the middle of a parking lot where you got pictures developed.
No, I'm not.
What's 'developed' mean?
That's how you got pictures from a camera.
What's a camera?
That's something you take pictures with.
No, that's a phone.
But years ago you took pictures with a camera.
Why would you want to have your picture taken with a camera?
No, no. A camera captured images on film, then you would take the film to a drug store or Fotomat.
What's a Fotomat?
I already told you.
What a Fotomat is.
I don't know what a Fotomat is.
It's a little shack where you took your roll of film.
A roller film?
No, a roll of film.
Why was it rolled?
Because it was in a camera.
Yeah? Then what?
Then you wait and pick up your pictures the very next day.
You had to wait a whole day?
I'd sue 'em for taking so long.
By now, just give up trying to explain.
I remember going to these little kiosks that only had room for no more than two people inside. The attendant, usually a female, always looked bored out of her mind. After all, she was in the middle of a parking lot, for Pete's sake, and had to inhale all those car fumes in the summer time and freeze in the colder months.
Fotomats kicked off in 1965 and began spreading out in 1971. By 1980, there were over 4,000 Fotomats, more than likely in a town or city near where you lived. Another teeny-tiny parking lot photo developer was Foto Hut, of which I also took film to. And the girls were just as bored there.
But did you know Fotomat was one of the first places you could rent movies? In December 1979 Fotomat had catalogs from which you could order movies to rent for twelve dollars per title...and you would pick them up the next day along with your developed pictures. When actual video rental shops began spreading like wildfire in 1982, Fotomat discontinued their video rentals.
Later in the 80s, shops had acquired the new “one-hour photo” developing process, digital cameras were on the rise, and Fotomats became obsolete. Many were demolished or turned into ATMs.