Willy Michel

In June 1928, Willy Michel, then aged 24, sets up one the first Parisian photobooths in his “Studio d’art Photomaton”. These machines, which then required the presence of an operator, were often found at the studio of photographers. Celebrities fascinate this fervent collector of books and amateur of inscriptions, trained at Henri Martinie’s agency, before becoming the portraitist of the literary circles. The studio gives him an opportunity to start a new collection: for twenty years, he photographs himself with celebrities in this photobooth. In a letter dated April 20, 1936, Max Jacob informs Jean Fraysse of Willy Michel’s project: “Willy Michel, the Photomaton photographer on boulevard des Italiens, asks prominent figures to be photographed for free, offers fancy dinners, buys books, etc.” In doing so, Willy Michel assumes a new identity, and his collection allows him to recreate another existence for himself. (Credit: Autoportraits dans le photomaton avec Michel Simon © Collection Jean Christophe Curtet)