December 8, 2015

These Mugshots of Prisoners in London Are Unusual Compared With the Standard of Prison Photography from the 1890s

These photographs were taken in Wormwood Scrubs prison in West London by an unknown photographer, c.1890. These portraits are unusual compared with the standard of prison photography at the time, in that they combine the profile and frontal portrait in one photograph. The prisoners hold up their hands to show any identifying features, such as tattoos or missing fingers. A mirror placed on their right shoulder captures their profile.

The use of photography to record known criminals, the 'mug shot', had been in evidence as early as the 1840s. In 1871, the Prevention of Crimes Act made it a legal requirement that all persons arrested for a crime must have their photographs taken.

(Photos: SSPL/National Media Museum/Getty Images, via Mashable/ Retronaut)


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