10 Striking Vintage Photos of Crime and Law Enforcement

In this age of controversies over the police and the militarization thereof, controversies over youth culture, and responses to mass shootings, we in America often think that the early 20th century was a relatively peaceful time. We haven’t seen the images of questionable police shootings from the beginning of the 1900s or anything of the kind. In most images we’ve seen from the period people seem relatively constrained and poised, revealing as little about themselves as they can. But not in these cases. Here we see the bizarre, unseemly, and candid side of law enforcement in the early days of photography.
10. Fashionable Mugshots

You don’t need us to tell you that these days everyone is expected to take at least one selfie of themselves with their phone any time they do something semi-noteworthy. We also consider it one of the bigger humiliations in our lives to have a photo of our arrest (known colloquially as a “mugshot”) taken. Hence most people having the same expression in those photos that they do on their driver’s license. However, back in the 1920s, it was still something of a novelty for a person to have their picture taken, even under potentially unseemly circumstances. Thusly, when the Australian government released a collection of mugshots from that era, it included numerous photos of people playing to the camera despite the somber nature of the photograph.

There were such images as Australians dressed in their Sunday best or making mock poses like they were models about to be featured in a catalogue. There was one person who had allegedly been made by the police to dress like a woman. Presumably these were citizens that were generally law-abiding and not people the police assumed would be dangers to society if they allowed them to vamp for the camera, since that would be more likely to hinder an identification.

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