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445 Portraits of a Man
March 31, 2014 6:44 AM   Subscribe

The Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers University is exhibiting a collection of 445 photo booth photographs of the same man, taken from the Great Depression through the 1960s. When photography historian Donald Lokuta showed his collection of images of the man to Nakki Goranin, author of American Photobooth, it turned out she had seven pictures of the same man in her own collection. They are hoping this exhibit turns up someone who recognizes him and can share his story. More of the photos included in this Star Ledger article.
posted by katinka-katinka (14 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
Lokuta’s theory is that the unidentified man was testing the photobooth equipment after servicing it. But even this still begs the question: Why would he save the portraits?

How patronizing. The museum considers this project to have artistic value, but it's not simply conceivable that the man who made it did too?
posted by thelonius at 6:49 AM on March 31 [3 favorites]


One would expect him to discard them, I guess, thelonius, to fit in with the movie parallel. But even as a test card, he could check them from site to site as a cheap calibrationselfie.
posted by tilde at 6:52 AM on March 31 [3 favorites]


"Do you still love me? Do you even think of me? If you ever do, send me a picture..."
posted by Segundus at 7:35 AM on March 31


calibrationselfie!
posted by thelonius at 8:24 AM on March 31 [1 favorite]


Lokuta’s theory is that the unidentified man was testing the photobooth equipment after servicing it. But even this still begs the question: Why would he save the portraits?

How patronizing. The museum considers this project to have artistic value, but it's not simply conceivable that the man who made it did too?


I didn’t read anyone saying it was inconceivable. What’s most likely is a different prospect. And how does their theory eliminate any sense of art on his part? Things aren’t necessarily that either/or.

He needed access to the machines over many years, they cost money, and he seems to be holding his right arm forward in a lot of the pictures for some reason.
posted by bongo_x at 8:41 AM on March 31


Maybe he owned the store in which the machine stood. Maybe his mom, like mine, took a picture of him every year on his birthday and once she was gone he did a selfie. Plus, don't they usually come in strips of four? To whom did he give the others?
posted by mareli at 9:20 AM on March 31


don't they usually come in strips of four? To whom did he give the others?

Not always. Some really old photo booths spit out a single framed photo. The Photomatic was one example
posted by Gungho at 9:44 AM on March 31


Begging to be animated.
posted by Segundus at 9:46 AM on March 31


Oddly, the show is not listed on the Zimmerli's own website.

Anyway, if he took at least 452 pictures over 30-40 years he was probably on a once-a-month schedule. If he was a photo booth service guy, he'd be servicing a number of booths a day, not one per month. But then, he could have decided to just keep one picture a month out of all the test pix he did. Maybe he was giving them to a child, and the tradition persisted after the child grew up.
posted by beagle at 10:34 AM on March 31


I'm tempted to post this on AskMe. Given some of the amazing answers people have come up with there I bet we would find out who it was by the end of the day, if not sooner.
posted by TedW at 10:47 AM on March 31 [2 favorites]


Oddly, the show is not listed on the Zimmerli's own website.

Noted.
posted by Oddly at 11:06 AM on March 31 [5 favorites]


But Goranin contends: "It's not a given that the guy worked for the photo booth company. It could be that he's just a quirky awesome personality."
posted by Jahaza at 11:20 AM on March 31 [1 favorite]


I think he took them because when photobooths gave instant access to self-portraits (or "selfies"), they instituted an age of self-absorption and narcissism.
posted by muddgirl at 1:25 PM on March 31 [1 favorite]


To whom did he give the others?

Maybe the photos were for a pen pal, or for his kids (if he didn't live with/near them)? Maybe he had a monthly business trip and he always took a picture of himself while he was on it, for his kids or SO, as a sort of joke/to say he was missing them or thinking of them while he was gone?

I think he likely gave these to somebody or was making these to feel close to somebody, because he's smiling or at least looking friendly in so many of them. Men don't usually do that in photos just for themselves, do they?

It also seems unusual to me that he's wearing work clothes in all of them. That makes me think it must have been a specific booth near his work or that he went by for work, because otherwise wouldn't a lot more of these be in casual clothes?
posted by rue72 at 2:15 PM on March 31


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