Jim Linderman just posted some original 1950s mugshots from Brooklyn, NY on Dull Tool Dim Bulb (one of my favourite photography blogs).

Of the images he says:

“Given attitudes, practices and institutional racism from 50 plus years ago, these sharp-dressers might have been just walking to work.”

Possibly, but we will probably never know the circumstances of their arrests.

I am fascinated by the tilted heads of many of the detained men and women. I read a hell of a lot of knowing defiance in the way many of the subjects gaze to the camera. It’s as if they are simultaneously acknowledging the photograph as a component in the apparatus of police power and the primary record of that unequal power. As such, they don’t hide or shrink but confront the photographic act.

All photos: Group of Original Mug Shot Photographs, New York City 1949 – 1955 Collection Jim Linderman