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When models come for a casting call, there’s a photographic process that serves as an introduction. A series of images have to be captured, with the intention that the subject will be comfortable by the last photograph. In the initial shot a model holds a plaque that identifies them; it usually reads their name and the date. This information is juxtaposed with their face; it is all we know about them from the silent picture.

It is this degree of mystery, coupled with the identifying prop, which makes casting images eerily akin to mug shots. Both “shots” are a stop on the way. In each, the viewer’s questions are met by a defiant stare. What did you do? Where are you from? What’s next? Will you make it? The casting shot ultimately differs from the mug shot in terms of potential. While a mug shot has come to symbolize the end of the road, a casting shot seems heavy with hope. In our “Arresting Images” series we will explore the visual similarities between the two, with an unspoken focus on the fundamental distinction.   

text by Emilie Branch

Many thanks to Stephanie Sadre-Orafai for providing insight into her research on casting photos and mugshots. 

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