Notebooks Featuring Old Mug Shots

Here’s an interesting article– not about notebooks in itself, really, it brings up some interesting questions about how people “recycle” vintage imagery for stationery and other products. 



Two young women in Cincinnati are testing the fringes of Fabulous Fifties nostalgia by selling reproductions of 1955 police mug shots. And their company, Larken Design, has found such a good response here that it is expanding.

“I definitely think it’s the mystery,” says Tara Finke, 28, one of the owners. “I kind of feel like I’m getting a glimpse of something I’m not supposed to.”

But as the business grows, it raises questions with no clear answers about the legality and propriety of distributing government property like mug shots, which are increasingly popular enticements to Web sites like The Smoking Gun.

Should there be privacy protection for the subjects, as well as safeguards to the way public agencies dispose of potentially embarrassing “hard copies” of records, in an age known for using digital technology to recycle found images into art? And, even when it is not the intent, does finding a new use for material like an old mug shot amount to profiting off someone else’s ancient misfortune?

Read more at Old Mug Shots Fuel Art, and a Debate on Privacy –


Do you think their use of these mugshots is problematic? If not, you can buy one on Etsy here!

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6 Responses to “Notebooks Featuring Old Mug Shots”

  1. I’m not sure how I’d feel about this. I suppose as long as personal information about the people in the mug shots wasn’t being disemanated, then it might just be an interesting photo. But then again, you’ve got to think about how the subjects of the mug shots would feel if they saw their face plastered on someone’s journal. I doubt I’d buy one of these any more than I’d buy one of the myriad journals on Etsy that are examples of copyright infringment because of their use of recycled bookcovers and whatnot that relate to specific characters and stories (Harry Potter immediately jumps to mind).

  2. Certainly a dilemma! (The ad that pops up is for some website to find public arrest records! which struck me as funny.)

  3. I would have thought that this would be simply illegal!!! Their state records surely?

    One time in London I was stopped photographing a building which I was told it was ‘illegal to photograph’ as it was a Government building though nothing indicated that it was anything other than an office building . . .

  4. I think it would depend. For the book cover recycled journals, if they are old, out of print, out of copyright vintage books, I would have no problem getting one of those. Something in copyright I would avoid.

    The mug shots, well, who are these people? Are they still alive? How are they obtaining them to recycle them? That may beg the question what is the government doing putting out mugshots. Interesting questions indeed.

    Best, and keep on blogging.

  5. I’m dying to know what that woman got arrested for. she looks so innocent. I bet it was shoplifting.

  6. July 1955 was 56 years ago.

    If the people are no longer with us, I don’t think there would be any privacy issues even if it was private at one time.

    Many court records such as wills are considered public information and I suspect these booking photos may have always been considered public info.

    Do you think Hugh Grant or his agent wanted his mug shot to be released?

    1955 to 2011
    then 16, now 72
    then 27, now 83,
    then 35, now 91 and
    then 49, now 105

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