Bertillon, Ravachol and the Explosive Potential of Police Portraiture

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Alphonse Bertillon’s system of identification has taken a place in the canon of photographic history ever since several key texts published in the 1980s demanded scholarly attention to repressive as well as honorific portraits. This article focuses on Bertillon’s most spectacular accomplishment, which resulted in the worldwide adoption of his techniques: the 1892 arrest and identification of the famed anarchist Ravachol. Ravachol’s identification became a highly publicised struggle over the image of both the state and the anarchist during the height of anarchism in Europe.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)245-263
Number of pages19
JournalHistory of Photography
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts


  • 1859–92)
  • Alphonse Bertillon (1853–1914)
  • Ravachol (François Claudius Koenigstein
  • anarchism
  • anthropometry
  • identification
  • international policing
  • portraits
  • propaganda of the deed


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