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When the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office released a mug shot of Donald Trump last week, I found it hard to look away from the photo. There, captured for posterity, was an image of the former president looking straight down the camera, scowling furiously.

There’s a good reason why I – and no doubt many others – found the photo so captivating, explains communication and visual scholar Jonathan Finn. Mug shots, Finn writes, play into a “cultural fascination with crime and criminal justice.”

Trump’s campaign is already using the mug shot as a means of fundraising. But its significance will only grow in the years to come, long after the 2024 election is over, Finn explains: “As a historical artifact, the Trump mug shot will be truly unique – it will represent the first time a former president had a public, photographic record of criminal charges.”

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Amy Lieberman

Politics + Society Editor

Former President Donald Trump poses for his booking photo at the Fulton County Jail on Aug. 24, 2023. Fulton County Sheriff Office via Getty Images

Trump’s mug shot is now a means of entertainment and fundraising − but it will go down in history as an important cultural artifact

Jonathan Finn, Wilfrid Laurier University

Former President Donald Trump’s mug shot is in line with the traditional mug shots that were first taken of arrested people in the mid-1800s and early 1900s, a police photography expert explains.

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