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HomeContentsOnline exhibitions > Least Wanted: A Century of American Mugshots

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Least Wanted
A Century of American Mugshots
 
  

Least Wanted: A Century of American Mugshots, will present the first survey of the American mugshot. The selection demonstrates that mugshots, taken under duress, can be as full of truth and beauty as more cooperative masterpieces of studio portraiture.
 
"Hookers, stooges, grifters and goons. Punks, sneaks, mooks and miscreants. These are the Least Wanted. Men and women. Elderly and adolescent. Rich and poor. Mostly poor. These photographs are part of a collection of over 10,000 American criminal mugshots ranging from the 1880s to the 1970s that I gathered over the last ten years. Least Wanted is a poetic encyclopedia of discarded portraits set free from the steel file drawers of police departments and prisons. Created as utilitarian instruments, they survive as extraordinary visual artifacts. Bored, sheepish, proud, coy, tough, defiant, bounced, and bruised. Innocent-until-proven-guilty faces that stare back at the camera with unmistakable individuality. This is central casting for the Late Late Show of an unvarnished reality. Small-timers. Fallen through the cracks. These documents, meant to be destroyed when obsolete, are remnants of a bygone era of hard-copy originals. They are physical photographs, often accompanied by municipal ephemera, attached to cards and documents. Typewritten and rubber stamped. Measured and fingerprinted. Documented and classified. A century of American social history, filed and forgotten - until now." Mark Michaelson
 
deprendi miserum est
 
This online exhibition was included in the gallery exhibition " Least Wanted: A Century of American Mugshots" at the Steven Kasher Gallery, New York (September 14, 2006 - October 28, 2006). 
  

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