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'445 Portraits of a Man'

Museum at Rutgers showcases hundreds of old selfies taken by mystery man

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Academics are trying to unravel the mystery of exactly who is the guy who left behind hundreds of pictures detailing decades of his life. In the photos, he's usually wearing a tie, sometimes a fedora. He's always clean cut, but sometimes goofy. The mystery man took his own picture hundreds of times, decades before the "selfie" was born.

"We can imagine all sorts of stories, we can imagine his life, but we don't know anything about him," said Donna Gustafson, the curator at Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers University.

The collection called "445 Portraits of a Man" is part of the exhibit "Striking Resemblance; The Changing Art of Portraiture." The pictures show the man's hair went from thick and black to thin and white, many of them taken over the course of 20 years.

"It gives you insight into who he was," said Angela Bouton, a student. "You can see his dress, and how he styled his hair, how he was feeling that day."

Curators believe most of the pictures were taken in a Photomatic photo booth from the Great Depression to the 1960s. And there are theories behind who he is.

"He was the man who either owned the store where the machine was located and it was his responsibility to make sure it was working everyday so he would make sure it was working and then he saved all of these pictures," Gustafson said.

Some of the prints were found at an auction house in Michigan. Others were found at an antique show in New York City.

Now the collection is together until July 13. Also at the exhibit is a modern-day photo booth for gallery-goers to take their own selfies and compare.

"It's cool to see how it's changed but the idea is still there to portray who you are, to show everyone what you're about," student Leeza Cinar said.

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