Michael Wolf’s mug. Photo by Michael Wolf for Hermann Zschiegner’s Mugshot Mugs project.

Hermann Zschiegner‘s cheeky Mugshot Mugs had me smiling. He wanted to make a comment on privacy and create and excuse to make contact with his heroes.

Zschiegner Googled and downloaded images of celebrities’ booking photos, printed them on mugs at Walmart and sent the mugs out to, as he puts it, “twenty people that have been of great influence to me in one way or another or whose work I have admired over the years. Some of the people who received a mug are friends, but most don’t know me very well – or at all. […] All I asked from the participants was to place the mug anywhere in their home and take a picture of it. The way the mug was framed in the picture dictates just how much privacy they were willing to give up.”

Zschiegner’s comparison of mugshots with paparazzi and within a framework of privacy-rights is thought-provoking:

“Federal booking photographs are automatically entered into the public domain in the United States, and can be obtained by anyone through the Freedom of Information Act. While designed as a tool to index and collect the images of potential criminals in a database, the publication and distribution of these pictures is an astonishing act of invasion of privacy. Institutionalized, but in effect not much different of paparazzi pictures shot from afar.”

Zschiegner is an active member of the Artists’ Books Cooperative (ABC) an international network created by and for artists who make print-on-demand books. Many of the recent book-projects within ABC have made overt use of public, internet and appropriated digital imagery. In a recent email, Zschiegner described ABC as “slow and spontaneous, small and excessive, serious and funny.” Okay, I’m amused so I’ll let you have it both ways.

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