The police mugshot photograph was developed as early as the mid-nineteenth century, and it has since developed as an iconic photographic type in its own right. Formulaic and recognized the world over, it was developed when the Victorian fascination of labelling and categorizing of people was at its height. Remarkably, the mugshot photograph has changed little in 150 years.
Since the mid-’90s, Manhattan-based graphic designer Mark Michaelson has collected over 10,000 vintage mugshots of everyday people from all over the country. Each closeup has a detail that caught the designer’s eye, from scars and bandages to crooked teeth and bizarre haircuts.
“I’m looking for the photos that move me for whatever reason,” Michaelson told the Daily News. “From things that are terribly funny to things that are terribly tragic.”
Michaelson has also released a book of these photographs. In theory, these photographs are formulaic and regular as we would expect from a mugshot. But in reality, every single one is unique – each face telling a different story.
When looking at these photographs, you can’t help but imagine what sort of situations the arrested were involved in; faces look back at the camera smiling, blinking, scowling. It’s also an amazing timeline of different fashions and hairstyles.