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Dozens of Vintage Snapshots, All with the Same Creepy Shadow

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The predator first appeared in the 1920s, lingering in the peripheries of family vacations, childhood playdates, and backyard gatherings until the 1970s, when he vanished from view. The predator was conceived in the mind of art collector Jean-Marie Donat, who hunted down dozens of vintage snapshots that share only one common trait: the rising shadow of an unidentified man in a hat.

Of course, he who Donat has named “Predator” is a photographer—indeed, many photographers— intentionally or accidentally caught in silhouette within the frame. Over the course of those 50 years, when film was both precious and prevalent, these photographic happenings— be they flukes and designs— occurred time and again in vernacular imagery around the world.

By assembling his findings in the book Predator, Donat stitches together a narrative from disparate events, makes one antagonist of many ordinary persons. The obsession inherent act of collecting extends to from Donat and into the shadow in the pictures; they are two characters, separated by time yet bound by the hunt.

Here, Predator is both fictional and manifest, phantom and embodied. He is stand-in for all photographers and collectors and indeed anyone who becomes consumed and preoccupied with memories. We know him intimately, and yet he remains unnamed. He is a grim reaper of sorts, fixing his mortal subjects in a single place and a single time forevermore.

Predator is published by the independent bookmaker Innocences and can be purchased here.

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  • Docrailgun

    Fun, but the Slenderman photo-manipulations were more interesting.

  • Marc

    Some of them don’t look right. They seem shopped.

  • Joe Bartbart

    The Shadow finally got his own radio show in the ’30s and got too busy for photography.

  • Jennon

    My first thought was that this is a rip-off of Vivian Maier, who often appeared in shadow in her legion of portraits. She usually photographed people in the city (NYC and Chicago) as well as the people of the French countryside, and as a nanny, many of her subjects were children. she wore a signature wide-brim hat that often looked like a men’s hat in silhouette. The similarity of this story and Maier’s eventual discovery is too striking to ignore.

  • Mainlander

    Before the 1960s most men wore hats. Not much of a mystery.

  • Paul Guba

    Wow a shadow of a man in a hat.. spooky kids. Better call Shaggy and that gang of meddling kids. 70% of the cameras on the market then were reflex so you held them waste level and looked down into the viewfinder. Sun at your back, hat on your head and creepy shadow. Mystery solved. He would of got away with it if it weren’t for those meddling kids.

  • Luke Bacewicz

    If this person did the work I’m sure they could have found these types of images but I think a fair number of them are fakes. Crisp shadows on subjects and overly blurred shadow of the Predator. Lame.

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