On the Buzfeed website this photograph is described as horrifying or terrifying. It isn’t but it is a bit weird. It tells us that the human’s fascination with cats on the Internet is not a modern phenomenon. The fascination with large cats is also a fear and this goes back many thousands of years to the time when humans genuinely were competing with big cats to survive, even in Europe. Lions became extinct in Europe in modern day Greece in about 1000 A.D. So for a long time humans battled against lions. Other big cats terrify people as well. They still do. In South America the jaguar is worshipped as some mythical and dangerous beast. It is certainly dangerous.
For me, it is humankind’s fear/fascination with the mysterious, secretive and dangerous big cat species that leads to this sort of photograph. The black panther, a melanistic leopard normally, is the embodiment of this sinister creature lurking around at night which you can hardly see and about to pounce on people.
This fascination I believe translates into people like this French gentleman in France who wanted to dress up like a cat and he does look a little bit macabre. The mask that he has made or acquired portrays the cat as a dangerous animal. The fur that he wears might be the pelt of a real wild cat. It is essentially a mackerel tabby coat. He might have been trying to look like a domestic cat in which case my theory is incorrect 🙂 .
He is standing before a painted backdrop so I suspect that this was taken in a professional studio. As this was taken in 1920 he had to keep very still for perhaps a second or two because at that time the film was not that sensitive so the exposure times were long.
As for copyright issues, this photograph is on the Getty Images website as owned by them but I would dispute it to be perfectly honest. Other photographs from this area and earlier eras are claimed as belonging to a legal entity when they are not. Therefore, I am publishing it on this website because I believe that copyright has lapsed. If I’m wrong then please tell me in a comment. If you can establish that you have the copyright I’ll remove the photograph.