Thanks Chris, I've sort of been watching the posts on the Billy The Kid photo(s) over on True West and Chris was right in bringing it here (and elsewhere?) for examination. It certainly is not being correctly examined over on TW as there are only a hand-full of hardcore historians over there anymore. One guy over there pops up once in a while with his collection of nearly all the Lincoln County combatants that he found in ONE antique store. Although periodically he admits there is no provenance what-so-ever, he identifies and talks about the photos in great detail, right down to the day each was taken, and why. With time his stories get more elaborate. On TW one is mostly going to get opinions and wishful thinking, just like the new Wyatt Earp photo Bob Bell released there on his forum.
The main reason I am piping in on this subject is to talk about "photo facial recognition." Although there are people around the country who claim to be experts, it is not an exact science. There are just too many variables. Police science uses it as a starting point, not as 100% proof. In my own research I have come across numerous photographs that one would swear were Soapy Smith, my great-grandfather, but the backs of some of these photos indicate it was actually someone else, taken somewhere else, or on a date after his death. William Saportas, one of Soapy's associates in Skagway is often mistaken for Soapy, so much so that he is identified in books as Soapy. One author nearly put it on the cover of her book. Had we not known about Saportas, surely his photos would now be identified as being Soapy. Without some form of provenance there is absolutely no way one can be certain. Even being taken in the same year, in the same town (Saportas) is not enough to verify an identification. Such photos should ALWAYS come with a "warning."
(bare with me here as it is relevant) Identifying color in old photographs has the same issues. I learned about this while working with the National Park Service on the original color of Jeff Smith's Parlor. I always thought it was white but come to find that it could have been tan, yellow, green, and a host of other colors. The problem arose with the variables of photography. When placing all the known photographs of the saloon together, each being taken at different times on different dates, there is a vast difference in shades, making color identification impossible by looking at photographs. In several of the photos there are known members of the gang, as well as Soapy, standing outside. Each photograph, because of the various times they were taken, makes the people look completely different from one another. Some of the ones with Soapy, don't look like him at all. Although there are "experts" in the black and white to color field, just as there are in the identification field, in the cold calculated end, without provenance we are guessing.
Thanks for your input. Is your speciality facial recognition? If so, that is great that someone is doing some scientifically based analysis of these images. I had just posted over on the TW board... more
Jeff, Thanks for your response! I certainly respect the work you've done on Soapy Smith and appreciate your input as someone who has "been there and done that", unlike myself and many others who... more
Chris, This would not be the first time someone launched a questioned photo of a famous person, alleging an intriguing provenance, only to back off on the provenance as scrutiny heightened. Happens a ... more