Sunday, September 20, 2009

Mugging for the Camera

Recent mug shots from St. Petersburg Times
The Smithsonian photography blog, The Bigger Picture, points to a recent article in Time Magazine about the rise of mugshot features in online newspapers. As newspapers struggle to survive some are finding our insatiable thirst for voyeuristic content to be advertising revenue gold.

Mug shot from Least Wanted: A Century of American Mugshots
Yesterday I was at a vintage photography booth at the Brooklyn Flea market and bought some old mug shots. Vintage mug shots have such a depth of charm and quality they almost transcend the pragmatic nature of their purpose. Newer mug shots, like those on the St. Petersburg Times' Mug Shot site, are cheap by comparison; created and distributed with a bottom line efficiency.

Despite the differences in quality and format, both were created as pure ephemeral utility yet both have found a kind of permanence. The older mug shot photos continue to show up at flea markets and antique shops as curious and anonymous objects while the newer images live on as digital records forever Google-able to potential employers and grandchildren.
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