Despite their growing standardization over time, 19th-century mugshots are full of variations, human touches, and an odd artfulness. The metal-edged chalkboards and different hand positions of the images shown on the So19 Gallery give each police station's images a commonality, yet the individual faces, bodies, clothes and gazes have a searing distinctiveness.
I'm fascinated by the varied garb the subjects were wearing when they were photographed and by the different positions mandated for their hands. I'm equally intrigued by the charges: "false pretences" of Sylvester Hulbert and Mustapha Irola, the particular larcenies of Alice Caush and Kate Stobbs. Like all of the best photographs, these images both suggest and resist narrative and interpretation.
A few samples are offered here; for more, visit the Gallery page of the main Society Nineteen site. The images displayed on the site are drawn from the records of the Dorset History Centre via History Extra and Ancestry.co.uk and the Flickr photostreams of Angus McDiarmid and the Tyne and Wear Museums and Archives.