“Mugshot” is a feature documentary investigating the cultural significance of the mugshot. Originally a law enforcement tool, the mugshot has deviated from its fundamental purpose as a source of criminal identification. It has been sensationalized through celebritydom, exploited by the leniency of freedom of information, and has captivated the attention of the art world. Mugshot explores the personal stories of those whose lives have been affected by this iconic photograph.
Cultural and legal differences are exposed as we travel between Canada and the United States and see how these precious photos are used in historical archives, art and in tabloid culture.
We’re all guilty of romanticizing mug shots but they fascinate us for very different reasons. Some may take pleasure in the base feeling of laughing at others’ misfortunes, some look upon them as cautionary emblems, reminders of how tenuous freedom can be, while others see them as a vehicle for writing an alternate history of the 20th Century.
Mugshot gathers a motley crew of writers, artists and collectors whose lives have been transformed by the strange power of the mug shot. Once disregarded as photographic evidence of a crime, these tiny moments of history are now highly valued by many.
TVO continues its tradition of commissioning documentaries that educate and inspire with Mugshot, director Dennis Mohr’s intriguing documentary on how mug shot photographs, whose primary purpose is criminal identification, have emerged into a form of art and entertainment. Bringing together a number of artists, writers, curators and gallery owners from Canada and the United States, Mohr explores the cultural significance of the mug shot. Sensationalized by the reality culture of today, this law enforcement tool has gained popularity and become tabloid fare, street art and highly valued pieces in private collections.
A Film by Dennis Mohr ; Public Pictures Production in Co-Production with Rock Yenta Productions for TVO, Knowledge Network, SVT, YLE and Spiegel TV