The Role of the Photograph in the Application of Forensic Anthropology and the Interpretation of Clandestine Scenes of Crime

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    Abstract

    Forensic anthropology is a very visual subject, demanding as it does the inspection and examination of the deceased human body for the purposes of assigning an identity. One important aspect of the visual nature of this subject is the use of photography for recording the physical features of the body and the context of any clandestine deposition. The use of photographs and image in forensic science is a wholly under-theorised topic; although it is fundamental to the practice of the subject it is not discussed beyond the practical application at the crime scene or in the mortuary. However, issues such as image ownership, motivation of the photographer, the purpose of the photograph and the interpretation of the image all impact upon the ability of the forensic anthropologist to conduct his or her work, to situate the discipline within society and the world at large, and to provide a narrative of the context of death. This paper will use case-study examples to discuss these issues within the framework of more general crime scene science, and consider how developments and uses here might impact on any application within forensic anthropology. It will explore how the photograph taken within the forensic anthropological arena is not the objective construction that forensic practitioners like to believe, but that it is influenced by, and in turn, influences the processes of human identification and the resolution of the context of death and disappearance.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)165-184
    JournalPhotography & Culture
    Volume1
    Issue number2
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2008

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