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Back from the Dead Files: Vintage Police Photographs

Back from the Dead Files: Vintage Police Photographs

When Los Angeles Police Department reserve officer Merrick Morton and LAPD historian Lt. John Thomas began researching historic criminology photos, they didn’t expect to find a treasure trove of stunning black-and-white images dating back to the 1920’s, stored in the vast 47,500 square foot Los Angeles City Records Center. The LAPD’s Special Investigations Division was the nation’s first crime lab – the precursor of CSI – and photography was a standard part of their forensics procedures as far back as 1925. Hundreds of boxes of case files, each with their accompanying evidence photos, were discovered in the Records Center, and Morton and Thomas have now preserved some of the best images as noir style art photos.

These photographs recorded events ranging from the Onion Field murder of an L.A. police officer, to the arrest of the notorious Manson family. Now they are considered to be exceptional examples of historical art. Selected examples were included in the prestigious Paris Photo exhibition, and prints can be seen online at Morton’s gallery. These extraordinary images could easily have been lost or destroyed if not for the efforts of Morton, Thomas, and the dedicated document storage pros of the L.A. City Records Center.

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