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Earlier this week I featured Blake’s Brief History of the U.S. Passport Photograph. An artist/collector with hundreds of Passport and ID Photographs, named Least Wanted, followed up with Blake to get the word out on his sprawling collection.
Also earlier this week, I put up a piece about the JUSTICE Art Installation in Bridewell Police Station, London. Coincidentally, one of the artists for the JUSTICE exhibition exhibition was Mark Michaelson, aka Least Wanted. It seems like a small-internet-triangle-of-providence presented itself this morning and it is up to me to draw the hypotenuese …
Least Wanted collects, groups and displays a huge collection of I.D. photos on Flickr. In addition to passport shots, it includes medical photographs, badge I.D. photos and other documentary ephemera. Prison Photography is interested in the majority of the collection: Mugshots.
Least Wanted’s sets are a mad enough curatorial project to keep me going for months. For now, I’ll just echo Blake’s sentiment and point you in the direction of Michaelson’s epic archive.
The three images used in this article were drawn from Least Wanted’s misc. Set
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?…
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.