JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post
The imaginary Big Book of Photographic Firsts is thick and brickish with data on the first times “things were done” in photography. That would include processes, papers, uses of chemicals, lenses, materials for the camera, and so on, not to mention the long lists of the first time certain sorts of images were made: the first photograph (and not necessarily the first Daguerreotype), the first photograph of a face/Moon/Sun/Sunset/full-body portrait/first outdoor image/first image from a height/first image from a balloon/first photo of a dead person/and so the list continues. This came up tonight while looking at the photo below, a mass photograph of prisoners, which caused the thought about when the first pictures of convicts were made (and then of course the first images of a prison, and the first for a mass of prisoners, etc.). As it turns out the earliest convict photos are pretty early, in the early 1840's (Daguerre's announcement coming in 1839 and almost immediately became an active technological meme). The individual photos of prisoners were fairly haphazard, though, with no forensic value for several decades, when Alphonse Bertillon came by in the 1870's and created standards by which all prison portraits/mug shots were made. Unfortunately I was not able to find anything on the earliest mass photographs of prisoners by my imaginary “press time”, so I'm posting this photo and its half-story as is—hopefully I'll come back to it with some data back-fill to make it right. In the meantime, though, all I wanted to do was to share the image, which I think is extraordinary in its own right.
[Source: The Illustrated London News, October 29, 1911, page 669.]
[And to further complicate the story of this photo it seems to be 2/3 photo and 1/3 drawing, making it a montage--the third or so closest to the viewer is definitely a drawing; the rest of it is definitely a photograph. There's a lot of people in this photo, and almost everyone has a hat.]