The title of this exhibit that’s on display at the RCMP Heritage Centre until March 31 has both literal and figurative angles to it.

It was organized by the Ontario Provincial Police Museum, and consists of over 100 mug shots that were taken of suspected criminals in the province from 1886-1908. So literally, these are “arresting images”. Shot at a time that for the average person would be a moment of crisis (ie. when they were being booked by police) they presumably carry a fair bit of emotional heft and thus are “arresting” in a figurative way too. 

According to Wikipedia, the mug shot was invented by American detective Alan Pinkerton of the infamous Pinkerton Agency in the mid-1800s.  Typically, it includes face-on and side profiles, sometimes with the subject standing in front of a height chart and/or displaying a booking number.

I’ve never had the pleasure myself, but plenty of people have, including  some (like Jane Fonda in the 1970 photo above) whose only crime it was to be a political activist. But if you check out this show, you will have an opportunity to have your own mug shot taken. For kids that probably qualifies as fun. But for adults, hopefully some will give a thought to the inherently dehumanizing nature of the procedure and the many factors (besides a flawed moral standard) that have long contributed to people experiencing this indignity.