artist Chris Crites

Chris Crites paints vintage criminal mug shots onto ordinary grocery paper bags researched from the Washington state archives. He works only with criminal subjects from between the 1890s and 1950s. Part of what fascinates him is the unseen story, or history behind each image, and depict very poignant moments in the subjects lifetime, captured in a still image. 

“When you see a mugshot [at the Archives], it’s usually just the mugshot. You don’t know what the booking charge is. Some of them do actually have the information on the back, which is really neat, but often times, I don’t have that information…” Crites reveals. “I try to keep [their booking charges] as real as possible, but if I don’t have the information, I’ll just make it up.”

"Years ago," Crites writes, "I saw a book of black & white crime photographs from the past. I found it amazing. The characters & crime scenes looked like surreal glimpses into the history of human interaction. Much more intriguing for me were the mug shots. Portraits of people who had just been caught. Despair, frustration, anger – so many expressions could be read on the faces. Each one of these images has a story."