Blake Andrews says, “Together with the mugshot, the passport snapshot was the earliest application of photography as purely personal identifier.” It’s a good read and you should check it out. My favourite observation was the 1920s transition, “Photos were glued instead of stapled.” Also, is that Indiana Jones?…

"One Million Finnish Passports", 1995. One million replicated Finnish passports, glass, 800 x 800 x 80 cm. Installation view: Museum of Contemporary Art, Helsinki. Artist: Alfredo Jaar, courtesy Galerie Lelong, New York.

“One Million Finnish Passports”, 1995. One million replicated Finnish passports, glass, 800 x 800 x 80 cm. Installation view: Museum of Contemporary Art, Helsinki. Artist: Alfredo Jaar, courtesy Galerie Lelong, New York.

I’ve been thinking a lot about mugshots recently and how prison photography is one little orbit of many about the deathstar of dark-photography. Other orbits include Weegee, Larry Sultan & Mike Mandel (defining the cross over between documentary and fine art) forensic photography, police blotter, thanatourism, civil war hangings, Salgado’s “Beautiful Deathscapes”, lynching photography, Danny Lyon (the most appropriated of artists) and fetishism to name a few.

All of these, by method or subject, relate to the state, and thus more orbits of homeland and foreign surveillance, torture slideshows, death suites, electric chairs, driving licenses, mafia movies, Jenny Holzer and genocide.

The most everyday instance of a photographic collaboration with the state is the passport photo. No more than that. Just thoughts.

About these ads