Some may not consider the mugshot to be an art form, but the frankness and unchoreographed nature of these photos often cuts to the heart of a person in a way that more produced photos do not. In particular I am a huge fan of the mugshots taken in Australia in the early 1900s, of which the above are all examples.
About 2,500 mugshots were taken by the New South Wales Police Department photographers between 1910 and 1930. And in fact, there is currently an exhibition of a large selection of these surprising works in the Sydney Livining Museums, running through February 28, 2015.
Curator of the exhibit, Peter Doyle, said the photos suggested that compared with the usual mug shots, the cops in New South Wales allowed the subjects to pose themselves, concocting a “potent alchemy of inborn disposition, personal history, learned habits and idiosyncrasies, chosen personal style, and physical characteristics.”
For me, this goes to the heart of the tradition of portrait photography, something I have a great interest in along with large format cameras (which were used to take these photos) and the history of the Australian prison system, dating back to the late 1700s. So for me, these are a great inspiration on many levels regardless of whether they were intended as art or not.