A Century of American Mugshots.
Edited and introduction by Mark Michaelson. Essays by Ian McEwan and Malcolm Gladwell.
Steidl / Steven Kasher Gallery, Gottingen, 2006. 304 pp., 300 color illustrations, 8½x12".
Punks, sneaks, mooks and miscreants. Hookers, stooges, grifters and
goons. Men and women, elderly and adolescent, rich and poor, but mostly
poor. These are the Least Wanted. Their portraits make up a small part of
Mark Michaelson’s collection of over 10,000 American mugshots from the
1870s to the 1960s. Created as utilitarian instruments, and meant to be
destroyed when obsolete, they survive as remnants of a bygone era of
hard-copy originals, extraordinary visual windows on the past, and
extraordinary physical artifacts, often accompanied by municipal
ephemera. They are glued to cards and manuscripts, typed on and rubber
stamped. Each suspect has been measured and fingerprinted, documented
and classified. Bored, sheepish, proud, coy, tough, defiant, bounced,
bloodied, bruised, broken and innocent faces—innocent until proven
guilty—stare back at the camera with unmistakable individuality. This is
central casting for the Late Late Show of unvarnished reality, and the lineup
is full of small-timers, those who have fallen through the cracks. Each
subject, each image, is a person, a portrait, a trace, a crime, a clue, a
moment, an expression, a frame, a mustache, a mother, a father, a son or
a daughter. Each image is evidence, documentation. A record of people
and of stories dismissed by history and rescued here. A century of
American souls, filed and forgotten, until now. Contributors include Ian
McEwan and New Yorker contributor Malcolm Gladwell.
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