Designer Mark Michaelson was an art director at the first magazine I ever worked at, a graphically-rich ’80s-’90s rock & roll monthly that spawned a lot of great talent. I later saw Michaelson when he was at Entertainment Weekly. I’d heard from a fellow alumni that Michaelson – having moved around among a lot of different Manhattan-based publications – had among other things produced a popular book of collected mug shot photos. It wasn’t until I’d already selected this item, that I recognized Michaelson’s photo project, while browsing Tumblr favorites. Unlike your high school yearbook photo, or other idealized, voluntarily-staged photos, mug shots reflect how you look, in police custody, involuntarily, on your worst day, ever. It’s the great equalizer. Enjoy this, from vintage everyday:
The police mugshot photograph was developed as early as the mid-nineteenth century, and it has since developed as an iconic photographic type in its own right.
Formulaic and recognized the world over, it was developed at a when the Victorian fascination of labelling and categorizing of people was at its height. Remarkably, the mugshot photograph has changed little in 150 years.
Since the mid-’90s, Manhattan-based graphic designer Mark Michaelson has collected over 10,000 vintage mugshots of everyday people from all over the country. Each closeup has a detail that caught the designer’s eye, from scars and bandages to crooked teeth and bizarre haircuts.
“I’m looking for the photos that move me for whatever reason,” Michaelson told the Daily News. “From things that are terribly funny to things that are terribly tragic.”