Who is he? What did he do? What was he thinking about as he sat down in the photo booth 445 times and waited for the camera to take his picture? And why did he keep the photos?
Visitors to the Rutgers' Zimmerli Art Museum in New Brunswick, N.J., can ask themselves those questions and more as they examine three decades of photographs of an unidentified man of many emotions.
Just don't expect any answers. Sometimes he looks happy. Other times he appears less than pleased. Like all of us, his face changed quite a bit over the course of 30 years. The hair grays and then thins. The cheeks fall a little lower on the face. The wrinkles become more defined.
All of that is universal (outside of Hollywood), which is part of what makes the exhibit such a draw. The images, owned by photography historian Donald Lokuta and lent to the Zimmerli Art Museum, were taken during the time between the Great Depression and the 1960s, according to a blog from Rutgers.
Lokuta came across a few of the images at an antique show in 2012. After learning that there were hundreds more photos of the same man, Lokuta made the decision to purchase them all and keep them together as a collection.
“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.”
Rutgers spokesperson Patti Verbanas said in an email that photo booth historian Nakki Goranin is still attempting to discover the man's identity.
One working theory is that he was a repair technician who specialized in photo booths around Michigan, a la "Amelié." But that's not a sure thing. Goranin told Rutgers, "It could be that he's just a quirky personality."
One thing is for sure — like Colin Powell, this fellow was way ahead of the selfie trend.
Follow Mike Krumboltz on Twitter (@mikekrumboltz).