The Man with the Camera Eye

Don’t worry! The man with the outstretched arms is not about to be crucified. His Bertillon measurements are being taken and recorded.

The photo was made at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis. The St. Louis police had an exhibit at the fair where officers explained to fair goers some of the new techniques they used to identify suspects. Bertillon measurements and fingerprinting were two highlights of the exhibit. The police officer taking the measurements isn’t identified but he’s probably John M. Shea. At the time Shea was head of the St. Louis Police Department’s Bertillon (aka criminal identification) Bureau.

Shea had an unusual ability to recognize faces. He was known far and wide as “The man with the Camera Eye.” My latest blog post for the Missouri History Museum tells Shea’s story.


6 thoughts on “The Man with the Camera Eye

  1. There was a fairly recent interview with a woman police officer who has this ability to recognise and remember faces, if I can remember where I heard it I’ll give you a link to it – it’s very interesting. (Not sure if it was audio or video).

    I can very rarely remember faces, I even forget what my own looks like! I tend to have to focus on specific details of a face – noses, shape of lips, eyebrows – and can remember those more easily… The ones in my photos (vintage collection and own family) are so familiar that I know who people are, but if I see them at a different angle… I’m usually lost again. I consider it a type of prospagnosia but actually, lately, have been wondering if it’s something different – maybe just a faulty memory with a bit of spatial problem added.

    I’m fascinated by the backdrop cloth behind the desk – and the fact that it’s visible as a backdrop! So that means that not only was the measuring being photographed, but the photographing of the measuring was being photographed… !

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Hi Val, That might have been Alison Young you heard interviewed. She was mentioned in this article:

    I’m not a super-recognizer either but I score well on certain parts of the longer test.

    I think the backdrop is fascinating too! The photo was taken at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair. Possibly that exhibition space was also used for taking photos of fairgoers?

    I’d love to see a colorized version of the photo. (I think it would be very challenging). Maybe you should give it a try?

    Liked by 1 person

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