On page eleven of this intriguing book there is a sort of disclaimer that says: The fact a mugshot was taken does not establish that a crime was committed or that the subject of the photograph is guilty or innocent of any wrongdoing.
So not all the folk who appear on these pages are denizens of the underworld but most of those who do no doubt found out that the vine of crime yields bitter fruit, or words to that effect. You only have to read the list of priors on the cards to assume that nearly all those that do appear here are guilty of something in their past.
All the photos are from the collection of Mark Michaelson (who also did a handsome job designing the book) which now runs to 10,000 shots from the 1870 to the early 1970s. Considering that the average mugshot is kind of predictable I'm amazed how interesting the book is. Many shots fill a page, sometimes the suspect is holding the board with their ID number, other times it is painted on the image in white paint. Interestingly you'll come across a page or two with cards that cover several years in a criminal's career, each with an age revealing photo and perhaps more relevant, details of a hopeless lack of success in wrongdoing. Pages 172 and 173 graphically reveal, in five cards, the failures of Joseph McGraw from 1931 to 1943 in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Page 222 shows John Korkkobecz with a police file at thirteen, fourteen and eighteen.
Some law enforcement departments weren't satisfies with just a face they wanted a head to toe record. New York City, Fresno and Bridgeport are featured in the book doing this. A couple pages near the front show a neat way of getting a face-on and profile in one shot by using a mirror at an angle to the head.Read more ›
What a fascinating book. Photo after photo of faces and their foibles, unadulerated, in your face. One can't help but wonder the stories behind each, what brought them down, what they did, their innocence or guilt. Young and old, the battered and bruised, some smiling, mugging (!) for the camera, others angry, frightened, defiant, sorrowful, every emotion in between, including a few who appear downright psychotic and the stuff of nightmares. The collection includes some early photos from the 1800s and continues through the 1960s / '70s. Hair and clothing styles change, entire eras are represented along with their mundane minutiae. The only hints supplied about these characters are what's been scribbled or noted upon the original photographs. Tantalizing bits which beg for filling in between the lines. Each and every face is a novel in itself. Scruffy, poignant, offputtingly bona fide.
Friends who stop in and browse this book in my living room never fail to fall in love with it. The photos are well-organized, making them more fascinating to look at than if they'd been randomly selected. An excellent gift, by the way. I highly recommend this one.
It appears as though this book has gained cult status over the years. My old friend bought this years ago when it first came out and I enjoyed it quite a bit. She was a graphic designer and had read about it. I finally got around to purchasing this book when I saw the price come down from some of the astronomical levels it was at. $1000 for this book is insane. I also wanted to incorporate some of these characters into some of my paintings.
This book contains hundreds of mugshots from the twentieth century. Some eras include more than others. There are more older prints than recent. The images are high quality reproductions. Some of the images have suffered fading, discoloration, and other types of imperfections due to father time. To me this just adds to the charm of these photos. There are also so many types of mugshots since all counties did it different. Some of these are full sized 8.5" x 11" frontal photos. Some are profiles. There are some lineups which are neat. Also in the very back there is a glossary that contains some additional information about some of the portraits. Some will include things such as the year, the crime they're charged with, the location, etc.
Overall it's a great book for breezing through or slowly studying. If you're into mugshots and you're on the fence, don't be because you'll love this book and it's high quality. Also text is pretty much non-existant in this book, so don't expect much.