Portraits of Pirates & Smugglers

portraits of a Bonfire Society in Lewes

From portraiture through history, I think mug shots are what fascinate me the most; everything from the late 19th century up to the 1930s and 40s. When you think about it, there was nothing like that done as portraiture, they were mere record shots of people forced to pose against a wall.

I like them so much that I wanted to find a way to replicate them on a personal project. A friend of mine suggested doing it with a Bonfire Society in Lewes… genius!

I have some friends who are part of Southover BFS so they were able to pull some strings with the person in charge… Bonfire societies are not to keen on strangers and outsiders but managed to raise the interest of their members.

The first year I had the assistance of a portrait photographer and friend of mine, Chris Slack. His knowledge of portraiture lighting and posing came in very handy plus he provided a vintage 500-watt lamp which did the job brilliantly as it made the whole experience more authentic.

The biggest challenge was getting people’s interest on the spot and getting them to pose for us. Children were up for it as expected but this project was aimed at adults mostly. Once we grabbed our subject’s attention, we joked around the idea for a bit and once they were comfortable with this we told them to give us their most criminal face; front shot, side shot, done! On their release form, we asked for their date of birth and what crime they

On their release form, we asked for their date of birth and what crime they wanted to be imprinted on their mug shot. If it was blank, I’d make up one, my friend Martin regrets this.

Copyright Notice: All photographs are subject to copyright and protected by UK and international law. Total or partial copy and/or reproduction is strictly forbidden. If you wish to use these photographs for personal, editorial or commercial purposes, please get in touch. ©Xavier D. Buendia / XDBPhotography

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