Least Wanted: A Century of American Mugshots, is a photography book by graphic designer Mark Michaelson. 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.
You can also go to Michaelson’s Flickr site where you are going to find lots of these beautifully infamous portraits.
I love mugshots as an art form, there is something sexy about them; anyone who has ever had to pose for one of this, carries the curse and mark of Cain for the rest of their lives. During my brief failed attempt at photography school, taking mug shots of regular people was one of my projects that never came to fruition. I wanted to stamp as many people as possible with the mark of Cain.
However, despite how much I love these pictures, the stories they tell and their historical value, there is also a dark side to it.
A few months ago while paying for gas at a service station I was shocked when I came across a little tabloid called ‘Just Busted’. You’re likely to see them in almost any convenience store each week and it’s loaded with mugshots–pictures of people charged with everything from D-U-I, to child sex, to assault, to trespassing, even murder.
According to an article at the Huffington Post, to gaze at this unlucky faces is a uniquely American pastime. In all Michaelson’s time hunting — in European flea markets and online — he’s never come across a mugshot in circulation that originated outside the U.S., where they are considered public property.
It sounds to me like Fascism though. Europeans and specially Germans got a good lesson when they decided that some minorities deserved a less than human treatment and it was the allied forces that put a stop to the madness. So, allowing this type of witch hunting hysteria in the US sounds to me like decline, decomposition, degradation and I don’t like it at all. I know Americans are far from perfect and have also committed injustices against minorities in the past but I think they are better than that. I hope so. People must come to their senses.
In this news video, an attorney named Jerry Summers says that the fact that anybody can go to jail and get mugshots in a newspaper that will sell for a dollar, certainly infringes upon the rights of the accused under the 6th amendment to have a fair trial.
OK, now that I’ve vented it and taken it out of my chest, let me tell you also about American Mugshot, a feature documentary film exploring one of the most intriguing phenomena in America, the crime-related genre of mug shot photography and its influence on contemporary culture. In this documentary, Mark analyzes his compulsion for collecting old mugshots.
I ask you to please take a look at the teaser trailer of American Mugshot below:
Also, here’s a little excerpt of the lyrics of the Trial section of the musical The Wall, that I love:
“The evidence before the court is incontrovertible, there’s no need for the jury to retire!
In all my years of judging, I have never heard before someone more deserving of the full penalty of law!
The way you made them suffer, your exquisite wife and mother, fills me with the urge to defecate!
Since, my friend, you have revealed your deepest fear
I sentence you to be exposed before your peers.