The origin of the modern mugshot

Ladies with hats

Over at Quartz, Selina Cheng chronicles the origin of the method that would lead to the modern mugshot technique:

In 1879, a French police clerk called Alphonse Bertillon (son of a statistician, who had a passion for anthropology) got fed up with his job of indexing inconsistent photographs of suspects. Because identifying information was not standardized, it was difficult to find and prosecute repeat offenders. So Bertillon invented what is now known as the “Bertillon System” and revolutionized criminology.

Bertillon created the first standardized approach to criminal photography, says Berkman. He wrote down specific mugshot instructions: Suspects had to be photographed from the front, wearing a hat; and then from the side, without a hat. Hats were omnipresent accessories back then, so it was important to be able to identify the person with a hat as well as without. (Not all mugshots here actually include hats though, likely because suspects didn’t have them at the time of booking.) Bertillon also standardized pose, lighting and distance requirements for mugshots.

I love how many modern inventions began simply with ‘and then, he got annoyed at his job.’

Ladies without hats 2

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Originally published on Valiant Ghost

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