“The researchers are bringing the image to a status of evidence,” says curator Diane Dufour. Her latest collation, Burden of Proof, investigates how forensic experts capture and display visual evidence, and the all important factor: how that imagery remains reliable.
“We are not questioning historical context of the case, nor whether the case was judged in a good or bad way, and we are not judging whether the person convicted was guilty. We are questioning the role of the forensic expert to present images as evidence.”
Throughout the eleven case studies of forensic visual evidence, this message is clear. Burden of Proof explores the objectivity and precision of forensic photography. Burden of Proof delving into its historical development and diverse innovations.
This reveals three main aspects of objective photography: invention, interpretation and presentation. Although these elements reside in the core of photography, the context of crime, war and politics that Burden of Proof delivers gives them paramount importance.
Bertillon’s metric photography, from the early 20th century, shows the innovation of the forensic photographer. His ‘overhead’ representations of crime scenes arrived after the wider recognition of witness bias and would foreshadow today’s 3D recreations. Elsewhere, War Seen From Above establishes the value of pioneering birds-eye-view photography for reviewing bomb-sites after attacks in 1914 Britain.
The Gaza Book of Destruction and the Drone Strike in Miransah evidence modern warfare. The former explains the importance of information behind imagery, with each entry containing data on the size of building and damaging artillery used. The latter showcases the invention of satellite-image stitching, used to gain proof of drone strikes in an otherwise media-ridden district.
Great Terror in the USSR presents the portraits of sentenced and shot Soviets. These highlight the changing nature of visual interpretation: whilst the images were once used to file convicted ‘wrongdoers’, they now capture evidence of a sickening crime against humanity.
Chemist Rodolphe A. Reiss’s Traces, Marks and Prints show the scientific approach to forensic photography. By capturing the minute details of a crime scene, Reiss looked to uncover all which might otherwise go unmissed. “The camera sees and records everything”, was his undying interpretation.
In a era where images are circulated en-masse and with endlessly varied ramifications, Burden of Proof provides an enlightening insight into the various functions of photography in the objective, documentary sense. This is photography at its most practical: an application of invaluable importance that has given way to extensive surveillance, image-manipulation technology and much much more.