Tag Archives: mug shot


My own piece of photobooth small town noir.

I don’t normally publicise books about mugshots on this blog but as a minor part of my collection, they hold a level of fascination for me in much the same way as photobooth photos.


For some time now, I have been an avid follower of Small Town Noir a mugshot blog by Diarmid Mogg. Since 2009, Diarmid has collected over 1,500 mugshots, all from the same small American town, New Castle, Pennsylvania. His collection is an extraordinary set of photographs covering the middle of the 20th century, from 1930 to 1960.

Meticulous research goes into each post which shows the original police mugshot, often accompanied by newspaper clippings, birth and death records plus details of the alleged crime. Anything that can be discovered about the life of the person beyond the day of their incarceration is also included. If you love to time travel through photographs, are interested in vernacular American history or just love a good yarn, this is a blog for you. Hopefully, very soon, it will be a book for you, too.

Diarmid has for a long time wanted to pursue a published hard copy edition of his work. He has teamed up with an innovative publishing company called Unbound, which uses a crowd funding model to


produce books by proving that there’s a demand for them before the publication process starts. Diarmid continues the story –

“We’ve worked together on a proposed outline for the book, which is exactly what I’d dreamed about: 150 full-page photographs on good paper, with 70,000 words of text; the pictures arranged chronologically from 1930 to 1960, so the passage of time is evident as you flick past changing hairstyles, fashions and types of photographic film stock; with the stories building up one after the other into a fractured portrait of a particular place and time that there’s really no other way to access.”

If enough people pledge to buy the book, he can do this, so please get behind this wonderful project by clicking on this link to make it happen:

My apologies for the last post which was accidentally sent due to my inexperience with using WordPress on my iPad. Hopefully now that I am back on my desk-top, I will be more successful.

On a popular Australian TV panel show, Spicks and Specks, there is a game that asks each panelist to choose whether the subject of a photograph is a musician or a serial killer. It is extraordinary how many times they get it wrong, choosing a guitarist as a mass murderer or a psychopath as a pop singer. With only one external representation of a person, it is easy to make false judgements.

Without wanting to trivialise such an horrific subject, I bought the photos above, because the sitter reminded me of Myra Hindley. She was one half of the duo responsible for the gruesome UK Moors murders in the early 1960s. I think my photobooth lady, above looks more like a sinister serial killer, with her sharply plucked eyebrows and unsmiling expression, than Myra herself,who is pictured below.

The tendency towards judging a person’s character from first impressions or one or two pictures, making our minds up on flimsy, visual evidence, is well-known to us all. How often do we see someone walking down the street and make judgements on their characters and lifestyles, based on how they look in that minute? How often do we assume a handsome Hollywood star, with a good PR machine on his side, to be as kind and sweet as the characters he portrays, only to eventually find out that behind the scenes he is a manipulative harpy or wife basher? How often are media representations of people, through careful selection and editing, used to manipulate our opinion?

Are we supposed to sympathise with the innocent abroad, falsely accused of drug smuggling? Yes? Then choose a flattering, smiling, professionally taken photo of the person. And if we are supposed to despise the calculating drug mule, caught red-handed with the dope? Well then, choose an unsmiling photo, taken from a bad angle, by a drunk friend, in bad lighting. Doesn’t matter that it is the same person, the perspective of the publisher is what we are seeing, not necessarily the reality.

Have a look below at the same lady of those wild staring eyes, photographed again, without the severe make-up and with more sympathetic expressions. I can now see her as a model or movie star.

In our media savvy world, I think we are mostly aware how often our opinions and emotions are played with by the Fourth Estate… or are we? I think we enjoy having our prejudices confirmed in the popular press and quietly disregard the tricks used to persuade us to a certain opinion.

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