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Daniel Buck
did Wyatt Earp drum for the Beatles?
Wed Sep 12, 2018 05:38

"Adventures in Wonderland: Identifying Old West Photos" is my look at the use and misuse of facial recognition technology in authenticating flea-market finds as valuable images of Old West celebrities like Billy the Kid and Jesse James. The essay zeros in on the ups and downs of Amazon Rekognition, Google Reverse Face Search, Google Arts & Culture, Face++, and Kairos.

Below are a couple of excerpts and a photo spread from the article illustrating the problematic nature of facial recognition software in identifying people in antique photographs. A supposed photo of Wyatt Earp matched an actual photo of Earp, but matched as well images of Pat Garrett, General George Armstrong Custer, and Ringo Starr. The common link? Moustaches.

The article is in the September 2018 Wild West History Association Journal, online here:



"Rumpelstiltskinning five-dollar flea-market photos into rare, valuable images of Old West celebrities has become increasingly popular since the Dedrick tintype of Billy the Kid fetched $2.3 million at auction in 2013. If lighting can strike once, why not on a regular basis?"

"I did a quick, back-of-the-envelope study of my own, uploading the face of the anonymous man [supposedly Wyatt Earp] in the Burger and Reed photo into Google Images’ Reverse Face Search, which scours millions of online photos. It returned only 15 “Visually Similar Images,” including Adolf Hitler, Abraham Lincoln, and George Orwell, but not Wyatt Earp."

    • A Land of Unlimited PossibilitiesJerry Prather, Wed Sep 19 11:17
      Dan, I read your article in the WWHA Journal yesterday. Since Old West photos and the use of "facial recognition technology" to "identify" the people in them has been a frequent topic here, and with... more
      • Re: A Land of Unlimited PossibilitiesDaniel Buck, Wed Sep 19 12:14
        Jerry, thanks. I did learn long ago the futility of arguing with someone who thought they saw the Virgin Mary on the side of a grilled cheese sandwich. Many people enthusing about anonymous images... more
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