Other Free Encyclopedias » Online Encyclopedia » Encyclopedia - Featured Articles » Contributed Topics from F-J

Identification Photography

photographs security world person

Identification photography involves making inexpensive and quick portrait pictures of people for a passports, security passes, licenses, permits, or similar applications. The school ID, a driver’s license, or company ID card are all uses of identification photography in this era of heightened worldwide security. Photography has become the preferred method of identification because a quick visual comparison is all that is required for verification upon entering or leaving facilities.

A French photographer, Louis Dodero, originated the idea of using photographs to establish identity or rights in 1851. A year later, Switzerland began to photograph all vagrants and beggars, and France started to circulate its first photographic “wanted” posters. In 1865, cartes-de-visite of John Wilkes Booth and his accomplices were glued onto the first U.S. “wanted” posters, prompted by the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln.

By 1860, both England and the United States made photographic records of those arrested and/or imprisoned. Alphonse M. Bertillon, appointed head of the Paris police ID section in 1882, devised the Bertillon system. The widely adopted system required three basic components: full and profile photographs; extended and precise written description; and body measurements, or anthropometry. In a famous 1903 case involving two nearly identical prisoners—Will West and William West—at the Federal Prison at Leavenworth, Kansas, fingerprints were found superior to body measurements for absolute identification.

Identification photographs were first used publicly in the United States by the Chicago & Milwaukee Railway Company for season ticket holders in 1861. Since then, countries, states, companies, universities, and just about any other large entity interested in confirming identity have turned to photography. In recent years, personal identification photography has proliferated throughout the world. While a person in the United States might need a photo ID to cash a check or to gain admission to a place where alcohol is served, a person in a Third World country might be required to show a photo ID simply to walk down a street or to drive along a country road.

A limited number of identification photographs are still made with a film camera, a medium telephoto lens, and color negative films, but digital technology has pretty much taken over this industry. Features of a successful photo identification system might include the ability to photograph a person and print metadata into the file, as well as the ability to photograph a special symbol over both areas of the photo; lamination to prevent alteration; and even additional heat sealing and a validation stamp to permit annual review.

Almost all new photo ID card systems use electronic imaging to generate photographs and other information by computer. A few Polaroid ID camera systems are still sold. The subject and other information are captured on a single piece of film and laminated in less than a minute. The photo ID can then be encoded with a magnetic stripe, a bar code, or other identifying data.

In this world where identity theft is a growing threat and security is a huge undertaking, retinal scans and DNA embedding are part of the future of this application of photography.

Idols [next] [back] Iconostasis

User Comments

Your email address will be altered so spam harvesting bots can't read it easily.
Hide my email completely instead?

Cancel or