“The camera is first a means of self-discovery and a means of self-growth. The artist has one thing to say—himself”*…
In this Age of the Selfie, it’s good to remind oneself that the impulse to photographic self-portraiture has a long history… and that, sometimes, that heritage is shrouded in mystery…
He likely hailed from the Midwest, sometimes sported a fedora and smoked a pipe. He dressed in casual plaids or in a suit. His demeanor ranged from jovial to pensive. His hair evolved from thick black to a thinning white widow’s peak. And sometimes, a “Seasons Greetings” sign hung over his head.
We might know a lot about how this man aged, but what we don’t know is his identity or why he took – and saved – more than 450 images of himself in a photobooth over the course of several decades.
This mystery has come to light with “445 Portraits of a Man,” a collection being shown for the first time as part of “Striking Resemblance: The Changing Art of Portraiture,” an exhibition [that was] on display through [last] July at Rutgers’ Zimmerli Art Museum in New Brunswick.
The 445 images – silver gelatin prints owned by photography historian Donald Lokuta – were taken over the three decades from the Great Depression through the swinging ’60s, when the booths were most popular. “There’s quite an age difference in the photos: You see him as younger man and then with a white, receding hairline and wrinkles,” says Lokuta, who came across a few of these images at a New York City antiques show in 2012.
Upon learning that the antiques dealer had hundreds of these portraits of the same man, Lokuta knew he had to keep them together and purchased them all. “As a historian, I knew this was very rare, but on a deeper level, I wondered, ‘Why would somebody want to take almost 500 photos of himself in a photobooth?’ In appearance, they are unremarkable. They look like mugshots, but that’s what makes them special: The sameness, the repetition.”…
Read more about the “Mystery Photobooth Portraits.”
As we say “cheese,” we might recall that it was on this date in 1928 that the first issue of VU was published. France’s first weekly French pictorial magazine, VU pioneered the “photographic essay” form and provided a home to contributors that included Cartier-Bresson, Man Ray, and André Kertész.