Wednesday, May 25, 2016

A Man Took Hundreds of Photobooth Self-Portraits From Between the 1930s and 1960s. But No One Knows Who He Is and Why?

Unidentified Artist, 445 Portraits of a Man, ca. 1930s-40s, Photomatic photo booth silver gelatin prints. Photo by Peter Jacobs.

He smiles. He stares. He sits without apparent expression.

Who is he?

That's the question historians are trying to answer after a collection surfaced of some 450 photo booth portraits, taken of the same man over what appears to be decades.

No one knows who he is or why he made, and kept, the photographs.

"Not knowing is very mysterious. It's like an abstract painting. You're going to fill in the blanks yourself. You bring to it what you know, and if we don't know anything, we sort of make up a story," Donald Lokuta told CNN, a photography historian and owner of the collection.

Unidentified Artist, 445 Portraits of a Man, ca. 1930s-40s, Photomatic photo booth silver gelatin prints. Photo by Peter Jacobs.

Lokuta bought the prints years ago at an antiques show in New York. He was immediately drawn to the images and to the mystery behind them. The photographs were taken in a Photomatic photo booth. They are small. Most have metal frames, though some of the later ones have either cardboard or plastic frames.

Lokuta guesses the photographs were made over a roughly 30-year period, starting in the 1930s. He speculates on why the man made so many and talks about the prints' appeal.

Unidentified Artist, 445 Portraits of a Man, ca. 1930s-40s, Photomatic photo booth silver gelatin prints. Photo by Peter Jacobs.


"He was either hooked on self-portraits and kind of wanted to see himself in a photograph constantly, or he worked for the company maintaining the machine," said Lokuta.

"It's the same guy, and he's getting a little older, and a little older and a little older. Then his hair is messed up, then his hair is neat. Then he's smiling a little bit, then he's not smiling. Then he's wearing a winter jacket, then he's wearing a sports jacket," Lokuta said.

"It's just so familiar. It's like looking at yourself in the mirror every morning."

Unidentified Artist, 445 Portraits of a Man, ca. 1930s-40s, Photomatic photo booth silver gelatin prints. Photo by McKay Imaging Photography.

Read more of the story on CNN.

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