“Prisoners”: Murder, Mayhem, And Petit Larceny By Arne Svenson’s ‘Least Wanted’ Close Ups

Arne Svenson describes the fading black and white photographs which stare back at us in antique stores and are thrown carelessly on flea market tables as “orphaned”—nameless and abandoned from the context of their history.

In his book, Prisoners, Svenson has adopted a group of forgotten children; mug shot negatives which he found, developed, and brought back from the dead.

These turn-of-the-century photographs, from the small town of Marysville, California, were taken by Clara S. Smith, a family portrait photographer. A backdrop of a garden with diffused lighting, used for her portrait clients, was not altered when an alleged criminal was brought into her studio by the police—and for many of these men, a mug shot was surely their only means to a photographic portrait. There is a shocking beauty in Ms. Smith’s work, in her ability to capture these frightened, angry, and indifferent faces.

Above each image is an inscription with the man’s name and the crime for which he was accused: Frank White, Petit Larceny; Claude F. Hawkins, Murder. To understand a man through his image, name, and alleged crime is a glimmer into a story aching to be told, which Arne Svenson lovingly has done.

The back of the book is comprised of Svenson’s research from two local newspapers of the time, as well as prison records from San Quentin and Folsom Prison. In expanding beyond the surface, we find that a man accused of petit larceny had actually only stolen a jacket to keep himself warm.

These documents also prove that racial tensions then are not far removed from today’s—when W.M. Brown, a black man, resisted a policeman “unless shown a star or other warrant of arrest,” he was charged with disturbing the peace. Arne Svenson has released these men to us with sympathy, an otherwise impossible opportunity for many of them in their own time.

More info: Arne Svenson






















(Visited 1 times, 1 visits today)

Leave Your Comment Below


If you want more awesome content, subscribe to 'Oh, Design You Trust,' our brand new Facebook page! Trust me, you won't be disappointed.

More Inspiring Stories

Wildlife And Stars In Stunning Photographs By Mark Andrew Thomas
Jungbauernkalender 2020: A New Bavarian Calendar For Young Farmers Has Arrived
Wonderful Vintage Photos Of Female Students At Smith College, Northampton, Massachusetts In 1948
A Completely Fascinating Collection Of Historical Photos
Surfer Doesn't Let Polar Vortex Stop Him From Catching Waves On The Great Lakes
Get Lost In The Majesty Of These Incredible Photos From Australia
Sensual Black and White Portrait Photos of Goldie Hawn Taken by Joseph Klipple in 1964
In Between Times: Lyrical And Nostalgic Atmosphere Of The Soviet Ural Region In Beautiful Black And White Photographs Of Ivan Galert
"End Of Days": Photographer Ali Rajabi Captures New York City In The Dark
"Float Around": Photos From Nirvana’s Underwater "Nevermind" Shoot
Sony World Photography Awards 2020 Shortlist And Finalists
Breathtaking Ballet Photography By Nisian Hughes
Photographer Steven Burton Photoshops Out Ex-Gang Members Tattoos
21 Historical Photos That Prove The World Has Changed Dramatically
‘80s Style Double Exposure Portraits Of Pets With Their Owners By Danielle Spires
Photographer Spends Eternity Waiting For Museum Visitors To Match Artworks
Tornado Captured in Couple's Wedding Photos
Guitar Hero: Tom Cruise for W Magazine, June 2012
Toy Jared Middleto Photographer Uses Practical Effects for Amazing Action Photos
Bram Stoker's Chair Series by Sam Taylor-Wood
5 Ridiculously Pretty Sisters Thank Their Parents for Their Expensive Weddings With a Photoshoot
Every Spring This Forest In Belgium Becomes A Blue Wonderland
Girls of Edric Chen
This Is What Happens When Barbie Faces The Struggles Of Living In NYC
"Untypical Girls": Early Photographs Of Women In Punk From Between The Late 1970s And Early 1990s
Spectacular Wining Photos Of The Siena International Photo Awards 2018
Spectacular Winning Images of The Black and White Minimalist Photography Prize 2021
Animal Orchestra
"Everyday Train Life:" Daily Life Of Japan In Black And White Photographs By Pak Han
Winners Of The iPhone Photography Awards 2019