Her dress, with its soft silhouette and wide fabric belt, emphasizes her generous bust. The bodice of the dress is covered with lace or embroidery. Based on the dress, which is all I have to go on, I’d guess the photo of this fashionable, attractive woman was taken around 1910. It’s possible the photo was cropped from a larger image and that’s why it’s a little blurry.
Or perhaps it was taken with a hidden camera, such as the tiny “Ticka” — a camera designed to look like a pocket watch. The Ticka could be carried by a gentleman (why would a woman need a hidden camera? Women detectives were as rare as hen’s teeth in those days) in a vest or waistcoat pocket. He could pull his watch out and appear to be telling the time while actually focusing his subject in the small viewfinder and taking the shot. Very clever!
It looks like the woman might have been reading in a library when, unbeknownst to her, the photo was snapped. The low angle of the image supports the theory of it having been taken by a hidden camera.
Flip the image over and you’ll see why this photo might have been taken in secret by a detective. Although it does not like one, the photo is a mugshot.
The back of the photo provides some information about the woman. Her name was Sarah Johnston, and, despite her demure appearance, she was a forger and pickpocket. Her husband, “Dutch” Johnston, was apparently also known to the police.
Unfortunately I’ve not been able to verify any of the information on the back of this unusual mugshot. If you have some information about Sarah or Dutch, please reach out to me.