a shot in the dark

Notorious photo of the execution of James Morelli taken with a tiny Minox.

Toronto. In Chicago of 1949, execution of notorious, James ‘Mad-Dog’ Morelli, made newspaper head lines because contrary to American law, the man’s execution was captured on film. This was about two decades after a similar incident in New York State’s Sing Sing death house prompted major changes to execution access in America.

Like the earlier photo, exposures were taken by existing light and a good guess. To circumvent discovery, the photographer hid a loaded Minox in a carved out area within his shoe, using a handkerchief to hide the camera as he looked through the viewer and snapped off four shots at 1/5th second speed (the Minox has a fixed aperture f/3.5, 15m lens).

This photo was subject to much debate over its authenticity. My thanks to good friend and associate, George Dunbar who shared this find of an article on page 86 of the March 1950 issue of Popular Photography.  The magazine link appeared earlier and is recorded here for convenience.


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