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I’ve seen Martin Luther King’s mugshot many times (last year, on MLK Day I posted this same mugshot), but I had not noticed the scrawls upon it. Robert Gumpert pointed them out to me.

Someone accessed the police archive following MLK’s death to struggle with a biro pen in writing the date of his assassination.

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We all know the famous photograph by Charles Moore of MLK’s arrest in Montgomery, Alabama and perhaps one or two photographs of MLK imprisoned in Birmingham Jail; MLK’s letters and the civil rights education have made the narrative and context for MLK’s arrests well known.

That is why I think an intimate tale into the biography of this mugshot would be fascinating. Through whose hands has it passed? How has it’s meaning changed? Is the copy with the scrawls the only original copy? Where are the original prints now archived?

The answers are probably easy to find and I’m just thinking out loud here.

THOUGHTS ON MUGSHOTS

This blog-post is just yet another seedling to a potential chapter of a potential book on mugshots.

I don’t think I’m the one to write a book about mugshots but a few trends make it a visual territory in rapid flux. The current racket and sleazy business opportunities they afford; the mugshot as ubiquitous as Facebook profile pics; their role as photobook Objet d’art; and mugshots’ new-found glory as consumer items, all point toward changing ideas toward – and uses of – this old photographic form.

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