Saturday, May 03, 2014

Sean Kelly

Hot Docs 2014: Mugshot


Originating after the invention of the daguerreotype in the 19th century, mugshots were originally intended to keep track of criminals.  However, aside from their use in law enforcement, they are considered by many to be a form of entertainment.  In addition, these photographs can be used as a visual history of the time period they were taken, especially since they are often photos of people, who might have otherwise been photographs.  Mugshot takes a look at the various ways these simple portrait photographs can be viewed.

In the United States, mugshots are in the public domain, with the assumption that people have a right to know if someone has a criminal record.  However, mugshots are also used for people’s entertainment, in magazines such as The Slammer or the celebrity mugshots that appear in the news.  However, mugshots also give off the message that “you did something wrong” and people might find themselves judged my their mugshots, no matter how small the crime.

There is also a growing community of collectors of old-time mugshots, which provide of visual history of the time period.  While many mugshots today are taken with little thought, certain mugshots from the 19th century were taken in a professional studio, with the same lighting used for wedding photos.  Mugshot is a very interesting look at how different people interpret mugshots.  While some argue that the American policy of making mugshots public is not that appropriate, there still may come a time when these photographs become a part of American history.



  • Sat, May 3, 1:00 PM

Sean Kelly

About Sean Kelly -

Sean Patrick Kelly is a self-described ├╝ber-geek, who has been an avid film lover for all his life. He graduated from York University in 2010 with an honours B.A. in Cinema and Media Studies and he likes to believe he knows what he’s talking about when he writes about film (despite occasionally going on pointless rants).