Posts Tagged ‘Alphonse Bertillon Album of Paris Crime Scenes

02
Nov
18

Text: Marcus Bunyan. ‘Death and the image’ 2018

November 2018

 

This text was written in 2017 for a special issue of the international magazine Text on the subject ‘Writing Trauma’. While the text was accepted, the peer-reviewers wanted heavy revisions, including reordering the piece and editing out my personal stories. At the time, I was going into hospital for an operation on my hand and such revisions were impossible to undertake.

Now, over a year later, I have reread the text… and I have amended and extended it, but otherwise I am going to leave it as I wrote it in the first place. I like the way I write and I like my personal stories. While it is a long read the writing addresses an important subject with, I hope, some interesting insights along the way.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

Word count: 8,137

Download Death and the image (4.3Mb pdf)

 

 

Abstract

This text investigates how the act of photography visually writes trauma. Through an analysis of the context of images of death by artists such as Alphonse Bertillon, Robert Capa, Alexander Gardner, and Walker Evans the paper ponders how the camera captures human beings ante-mortem, at the death point, post-mortem and vita ad mortem.

It seeks to understand that line between presence and absence where life was there… and now death is in its place. Death was one step removed, now it is present. How does the act and performance of photography depict the trauma of death, this double death (for the photograph is a memento mori and/or the person in the photograph may already know that they are going to die).

“The text of eternity that the photograph proposes, imparts and imposes a paradoxical state of loss. The secret of telling truth in a photograph is that the more truthful, “the more orgasmic, the more pleasurable, the more suicidal” the pronouncement of the perfect paradox (you are dead but also alive) … then the more we are strangled while uttering it. The language of deferral in the writing of trauma in death and the image becomes the dissolve that seizes the subject in the midst of an eternal bliss. In death and the image we may actually die (be)coming.”

Keywords

Trauma, photography, death, art, memento mori, war, execution, memory, victim, representation, Alphonse Bertillon, Robert Capa, Alexander Gardner, Walker Evans, ante-mortem, point of death, death point, post-mortem, punctum, empathy, vita ad mortem, life after death.

 

 

Death and the image

 

 

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“Photography, because it stops the flow of life, is always flirting with death…”

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John Berger1

 

“On the most fundamental level there are transitions from continuous to discontinuous or from discontinuous to continuous. We are discontinuous beings, individuals who perish in isolation in the midst of an incomprehensible adventure, but we yearn for our lost continuity. We find the state of affairs that binds us to our random and ephemeral individuality hard to bear. Along with our tormenting desire that this evanescent thing should last, there stands our obsession with a primal continuity linking us with everything that is.”

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Georges Bataille2

 

 

German Gen. Anton Dostler is tied to a stake before his execution

 

“German General Anton Dostler is tied to a stake before his execution by a firing squad in the Aversa stockade. The General was convicted and sentenced to death by an American military tribunal. Aversa, Italy.” Blomgren, December 1, 1945. 111-SC-225295. National Archives Identifier: 531326

 

 

Trial and Execution of General Anton Dostler

The still photograph (above) can be seen being taken by the flash from a still camera that occurs at 5.16 secs in the YouTube film. The photographer can then be seen walking off. Later in the film another angle of the execution is shown, again with the flash of the absent camera recorded, starting at 7.10 secs. The displacement of time and space, between one point of view and another, with the absence of the still camera in both instances (in the image and in the film), is uncanny.

 

 

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One of life’s recurrent themes is mortality. As Bataille notes, we are discontinuous beings: we live, we breathe, and we die. Photography’s recurrent theme is also mortality. In a ghostly evocation, the medium possesses an odour of death that sticks in the throat. So how then does photography visually write the trauma of death – over time, through space, in different contexts, with multiple narratives and different points of view?

As a first point of reference, we need to define trauma. Trauma can be an injury to living tissue; a disordered psychic or behavioural state resulting from severe mental or emotional stress or physical injury; an emotional upset and an agent, force or mechanism that causes all or any of these conditions.3 Atkinson and Richardson note that the work of theorists such as Nicolas Abraham, Maria Torok, Shoshana Felman, Dori Laub, Dominick LaCapra, and Cathy Caruth in broad terms view trauma,

“… as the delayed manifestation of a psychic wound sustained during an experience that has happened too quickly to allow registration and processing of the event at the time of its occurrence. To study trauma in literary or cultural terms, then, is to be concerned with the tension between what is known and what is not known, and with the impact and dynamics of the woundedness and machinations of trauma – not only its purely physical instantiation, but in all its reverberations. This is what brings the study of trauma to the uncertainty of truth, the impossibility of bearing absolute witness to catastrophe, the multiplicity of historical narratives.”4

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Constitutive of trauma and its affects is the “piercing of the psychic shield” which protects a fragile subjectivity leaving in its wake shattered individuals, communities and even whole nations.5 Further, Michalinos Zembylas citing Kaplan (2005) notes that “an important distinction that needs to be made here is one’s positioning and context of encountering trauma,”6 between being a primary or secondary witness. Personally, I believe that a testimony (a formal written or spoken statement that something is true) in the first instance… becomes a testament (something that serves as a sign or evidence of a specified fact) in the second.

When looking death in the face, we can state that death is a trauma not only for the physical body and the psyche of the person involved (the direct trauma victim), but also for the witness of the event, be they a primary witness – one who actually witnesses the traumatic event – or a secondary witness, a person “who has no personal connection to the victim but may encounter trauma through other sources such as the media and oral or written accounts of a catastrophe.”7

These secondary encounters can never be the actual experience of trauma but, acting through language (be it oral, written or visual), they may embody sensations that stimulate feelings and thoughts in the secondary observer. A social construction of a testament may produce an empathetic engagement in viewers as “secondary witnesses.”8 Through an understanding of spectatorship, experience, aesthetic effects, narrative strategies and temporal shifts in the polyvocal nature of language we can begin to understand how the affect of secondary traumatisation – on memory, history and the body – can break down the subject-object dichotomy, can break down the realist norms of representation to produce “a mode of cognition involving sensuous, somatic and tactile forms of perception.”9 Here language (the photograph in this case, reinforced by the title of the photograph) stands in for that which is absent, but it is not in opposition to an intensity of feeling. The language of the photograph can intensify the affect of the image, especially if the photograph becomes transcendent, embodied, in the vitality and “aliveness” of the viewer.10

This mimetic experience “promotes a critical and self-reflexive empathy” and knowledge in the secondary witness that LaCapra observes is a “virtual, not vicarious, experience … in which emotional response comes with respect for the other and the realization that the experience of the other is not one’s own.”11 Essentially, this is a social concept, a social construction of reality, a matrix-like view of the world that draws on relational and contextual dimensions for understanding trauma. This concept requires careful consideration of issues related to history, culture, race, gender, ideology, beliefs, agency and power.

“From a social constructionist and narrative perspective, people reconstruct their selves through the stories they tell about their past and the meaning they ascribe to the present in anticipation of the future. They shape their stories through active and creative interpretation of their lives and are in turn shaped by these stories. However, the self is not only a product of narratives. People are purposeful and moral beings, having the power and agency to change scripts, discourses and ideologies…”12

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Here we can ask, what are the machinations of the image in the affective dynamics of photographs of trauma and how are they situated in a certain relation to trauma? What do photographs actually do that give rise to a way of thinking and feeling about trauma?

Although no representation can fully describe the first hand experience of trauma because of the partial nature of language – its gaps, elisions and impossibilities of speech13 – it is because of these very gaps that new spaces of interpretation can open up. Rather than just representing the perceived reality of trauma (this happened, at this time, in this location – an ordering of reality), images have the unique ability to transcend their indexical relationship to the real, pointing and touching (as if with the index finger) to the relationality of trauma as it touches human emotion. With its ability to police and regulate it subject, the implicit violence of photography is a predatory means of taking possession of both its victim (the subject) and its viewer.

Anna Gibbs has stated that we live, “in a more or less continuous state of mediatized emergency and traumatic aftermath, desensitized by the onslaught of images … to the affect we ought to feel.”14 I strongly disagree. I would argue that the traumatic numbing15 and supposed “death of experience”16 allegedly present in the world of image circulation, translation, and accumulation only occurs if the witness lets it be so.

Personally, I believe that something in the image is transferred to the witness pre-cognition – intuitively, imaginatively – which can then be interpreted cognitively and relationally with regard to history and memory, art and culture, politics and experience through an orthogonal movement through time and space. As viewers and interpreters, we are not fixed at a particular point in time and space, nor do we observe from one particular point of view. Our existential engagement provides a space to close the gap between affect and enunciation.

“Facts can vibrate; they can give of colors, sounds, smells, images. To talk of these facts with no recognition of this is to lack any awareness of the act of enunciation, of the gaps between language and experience and the unpredictable ways that sparks can break out of language, leap across the gap and ignite the tinderbox of traumatic memory.”17

 

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Surfing Pinterest (a photo sharing website) recently, I absentmindedly clicked on an abstract image of three hanging black shapes from the pantheon of image tiles that presented itself to me. Up popped this horrific image of three Afro-Americans who had been lynched in the Southern United States in the 1920s. I was shocked and dismayed. I had such a strong emotional reaction to the image. But more than that, my feelings and memories of the bigotry that I had faced as a young gay man growing up in the 1970s swelled in my consciousness. This story is a example of how exposure to an image can bring to the surface unresolved aspects of being ‘Other’, of being different, and being persecuted for that difference. I thought about the lives of these people that had led them to that point, their families, their histories and the terror that they must have experienced on that day. You cannot begin to understand that, but you can have empathy and anger against the systems of racism and bigotry that exist in the world.

Then the cognitive part of my brain linked the image to a report I had only just seen a few days before on lynching, which told of the thousands of Afro-Americans who had been killed between 1882 and 1968.18 Mentally, I then linked this to a Facebook posting which put forward the analogy that the current killing of Afro-Americans by police in the United States was akin to a contemporary and publicly endorsed and enforced form of lynching. Finally, in my head I heard Billie Holiday singing that famous song Strange Fruit, “a dark and profound song about the lynching of African Americans in the Southern United States during the Jim Crow Era, “strange fruit,” as they hang from trees, rotting in the sun, blowing in the wind, and becoming food for crows upon being burned.”19 I watched the video of Billie Holiday singing this song on YouTube.20 Every time I think of this image I have these associations of animate thought intrinsic to the original experience,21 where the micro and macro conditions of production work to “embody and register trauma,”22 a communicable language of sensation and affect, time and time again.

 

 

Billie Holiday – Strange fruit

 

 

These chains of affect, the nexus between affect / feeling / emotion / cognition, are a form of synaesthesia where facts, emotions, feelings, memories, sounds and images vibrate against each other as an active and continuous engagement of the self with the world in which one lives. In a human being who is un/consciously aware, these real and mediated experiences may encourage a sensory intensification that elicits thought and empathic vision in the materiality of embodied experience, something (the punctum?) that takes us out of our selves into a higher register of being.

As part of this system of impressions, of an instantaneous, affective response triggered by an image,23 photographs force us to engage visually and involuntarily. “Impressions that force us to look, encounters which force us to interpret, expressions which force us to think.”24 Encounters which force us to comprehend. The conjunction of affect and critical awareness “constitute the basis of an empathy grounded … on a feeling for another that entails an encounter with something irreducible and different, often inaccessible.”25 This combination of affective and intellectual operations – about forcing oneself to look (and that process of looking/surrendering) but never forgetting your ‘point of view’, your memory, history and identity, is when empathy becomes that process of surrender, “but also the catch that transforms your perception.”26 How is this “catch” enunciated in photographs? I now want to look at a few images that explicate these phenomena.

 

Ante-mortem: present but absent

3

With the invention of photography in the late 1830s, the photograph as memento mori allows the spectator to observe death not at first hand, but through the representation of the image “taken from life.” Photographs provide a verification of reality through their apparent verisimilitude, while being woven into narratives – oral, textual, intertextual, spatial and temporal – that frame the event in multiple ways.

“Photographs … have come to stand in for reality … despite the fact that it is relatively easy to manipulate their meaning. As a result of their ability to project reality, images, and particularly those that depict death and destruction, are seen as potentially powerful pieces of documentary evidence…”27

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Photographs are embedded in “a context of the cultural circumstances at the time, and therefore exist rarely in isolation or without meaning”28 and can be seen as having a denotative level (what they physically represent) and a connotative level (the meanings attached to that representation).29 Photography quickly changed how death was displayed because it introduced a “reality” and immediacy of representation that was democratic, personal and everyday.30

 

Alexander Gardner. 'Lewis Paine' 26th April 1865

 

Alexander Gardner (1821-1882)
Lewis Paine
26th April 1865
Albumen silver print from a Collodion glass plate negative

 

 

An example of the personal, everyday and documentary nature of photography can be seen in the photograph taken by Alexander Gardner in April 1865. This portrait is of Lewis Thornton Powell (aka Lewis Payne or Paine) who was one of the conspirators in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln which occurred the same month. The photograph has a background of dark metal, and was taken on one of the ironclads U.S.S. Montauk or Saugus, where the conspirators were for a time confined. The reality is Paine was executed in July 1865 just eight short weeks after this photograph was taken, so in effect (and in the affect on us of this knowledge), he is (already) a dead man walking. This is a double death – that death buried in the very act of taking any photograph, La petite mort or “the little death,” an idiom and euphemism for the orgasm of the photographic time freeze; and the fact that we know that he was going to die, those short weeks later.

The photograph forms the central panel of a three-panel Renaissance-like altarpiece, the form in which the three photographs are usually displayed. The left and right hand photographs were taken within minutes of each other, with the camera in the same position, whereas in the centre photograph the camera has been lowered to show more of the body, and the image has been cropped at the top. In the central plate the figure of Paine has been raised up in the frame – almost prematurely brought back to life by his placement. The centre image is the only one where Paine stares directly at the camera. He surveys the viewer with a gaze I find enigmatic.

 

Alexander Gardner. 'Lewis Paine' 26th April, 1865

 

Alexander Gardner (1821-1882)
Three photographs of Lewis Paine
26th April, 1865
Albumen silver prints from a Collodion glass plate negative

 

 

This is a very modern face, a very contemporary face. His hair is similar to Justin Beiber’s. Who brushed his hair across for this picture, and would it normally be this long, or has it just been ignored because of his fate? He still has good muscle tone – has he been exercising in his ironclad cell? And finally, his clothing – are they navy issue, as his top appears to have been given to him, perhaps the coarse, navy blue wool of the Northern states. If we were to place this image within the metaphysical school of photography which peaked with Paul Caponigro and Minor White we could say: Hovering above his head, has his spirit already begun to leave his body?

One reading of his gaze is that he is interested in what the photographer is doing – almost the gaze of an apprentice wanting to apply these skills in the future. Given his fate is he insane because of his interest? Another reading could be that he is looking out to the future in the hope of finding that he will be judged in another way. And another is the immediacy of his gaze – it is a gaze that is happening now!

The other thing that I find mysterious is the distance of the photographer from the subject. Was it fear or the presence of the guards that stopped Gardner getting any closer, or are there deck fittings we cannot see that prevented his approach. Imagine being Paine, having a photographer point a damn great view camera at you, documenting your countenance for prosperity. What was going on in Paine’s mind – what is his perspective on this performance by the photographer? And what brought Paine to this place?

Michel Foucault calls the methods and techniques by which human beings constitute themselves, “technologies of the self.” Foucault argued that we as subjects are perpetually engaged in processes whereby we define and produce our own ethical self-understanding. According to Foucault, technologies of the self are the forms of knowledge and strategies that “permit individuals to effect by their own means or with the help of others a certain number of operations on their own bodies and souls, thoughts, conduct, and way of being, so as to transform themselves in order to attain a certain state of immortality.”31 As we look into his eyes he knows that we know he is going to die, has already died but the intensity of that knowledge is brought into present time. In this instant, what Paine emanates is a form of i-mortality.

Roland Barthes in his seminal work Camera Lucida observes in Section 39:

“He is dead and he is going to die… The photograph is handsome, as is the boy: that is the studium. But the punctum is: he is going to die. I read at the same time: this will be and this has been; I observe with horror an anterior future of which death is the stake. By giving me the absolute past of the pose, the photograph tells me death in the future. What pricks me is the discovery of this equivalence.”32

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This is Barthes anterior future, a moment where truth is interpreted in the mind of the photographer, not out there but in here (your head and your heart), where past, present and future coalesce into a single point in time: his death and our death connected through his gaze, and the knowledge of our joint discontinuity. In this moment in time, what we are doing is making a list about the human condition when we talk about something that is remarkable. Language can never fully describe the human condition, much as it may try… and this is why this photograph is remarkable, because it is ineffable, unknowable. The photograph inhabits you; it haunts you like few others, because it is a memoriam to a young man and his present death. Here he is present but absent at one and the same time.

As such, this is an image as triple death – the death of the photograph (past time / memento mori / remembrance of death), the death of the person in the photograph and also a third death, the knowledge that Paine is going to die. Death, like life, can be cyclical. This is the catch that transforms your perception, in Barthes terms the punctum of the image, in which the wounding, personally touching detail (past pose, future death) establishes a direct relationship with the object or person within it.

“The punctum (a Latin word derived from the Greek word for trauma [my emphasis]) … inspires an intensely private meaning, one that is suddenly, unexpectedly recognized and consequently remembered (it “shoots out of [the photograph] like an arrow and pierces me”); it ‘escapes’ language (like Lacan’s real); it is not easily communicable through/with language. The punctum is ‘historical’ as an experience of the irrefutable indexicality of the photograph (its contingency upon a referent). The punctum is a detail or “partial object” that attracts and holds the viewer’s (the Spectator’s) gaze; it pricks or wounds the observer.”33

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This trauma, prick or wound that lifts the viewer out of themselves, out of their everyday existence, “points to those features of a photograph that seem to produce or convey a meaning without invoking any recognizable symbolic system. This kind of meaning is unique to the response of the individual viewer of the image.”34 This punctum also accounts for the importance of emotion and subjectivity in interacting with photographs; memory of that photograph displaces it from its moment of origin.35 Photography enacts the trauma of death even while being enacted upon.

Now we can read Eduardo Cadava’s comments on Walter Benjamin’s analysis of the photograph:

“As Benjamin suggests … the photograph, like the souvenir, is the corpse of an experience. A photograph therefore speaks as death, as the trace of what passes into history. I, the photograph, the spaced out limit between life and death, I, the photograph, am death. Yet, speaking as death, the photograph can be neither death nor itself. At once dead and alive, it opens the possibility of our being in time.”36

 

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Photography then, can be seen as death taken away from itself.

Through the oscillation between studium (historical, social or cultural meanings extracted via semiotic analysis) and punctum (those features of a photograph that seem to produce or convey a meaning without invoking any recognisable symbolic system) the traumatic photograph of death, death’s afterimage, transcends the initial shock inducing signifier leading to a more extended form of engagement that addresses the duration of trauma in memory – through the images elisions, slippages, and conceptual, political and historical complexities. Our negotiation with imaging and imagining, therefore, takes place within ever-expanding contexts of meaning – some relating to the past and some to the present – which impact future interpretations.

I believe that these negotiations are, firstly, linked to what Deleuze calls the encountered sign, a “sign that is felt, rather than recognized, or perceived through cognition.”37 A feeling that is a catalyst for critical enquiry or deep thought. “For Deleuze, affect or emotion is a more effective trigger for profound thought because of the way in which it grasps us, forcing us to engage involuntarily…”38 Secondly, I believe that these negotiations are linked to what Barthes calls the images “third meaning.”

“In Barthes’ view, the image’s third meaning compels viewers after they encounter and deplete both its literal/informational side and its symbolic dimensions. Barthes argued that the third meaning is difficult to locate, because it is not situated structurally or in a certain place of the image. It is similarly difficult to describe, because it involves what he called the image’s obtuseness, its accent or anaphoric side.”39

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Again, we have this idea of the catch, accent, or punctum that grasps us and takes us out of ourselves, that modulates the images “voice” (which is how the image takes on an already provided meaning upon its initial appearance), a voice which then also “helps us to understand both the image’s third meaning and the role of contingency in visual memory.”40

 

Death point

5

 

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“Ah, wretched as I am … to dwell not among the living, not among the dead.”

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Sophocles, ‘Antigone’41

 

 

Commentators such as Barbie Zelizer observe that images, especially about-to-die images, easily “reduce complex issues and circumstances to memorable but simplistic visual frames.”42 The image,

“… depicts for its onlookers a moment in an event’s unfolding to which they attend while knowing where that unfolding leads. This means that visual work often involves catching the sequencing of events or issues midstream, strategically freezing it at its potentially strongest moment of meaningful representation.”43

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Other writers such as Susan Sontag note that these images have the potential to stir public emotions, simply because they freeze a moment in time and can be looked at again and again… but at the same time the repeated viewing of images of atrocity can have a numbing effect.44 The pain and fear evidenced in the photograph as seen in the victim’s eyes (for example in the photograph of the shooting of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy), expands the literal / informational side and its symbolic dimensions (chivalry, love, devotion, hope – Camelot!) into a Barthes’ third space. While Kennedy is a victim twice over (the victim of the assassin and the camera) in a guttural interpretation of the image he is to remain a victim for eternity in the contingency of the future, as long as we continue to look at this photograph.

For me, this is sad and painful photograph. I remember the day it happened. I was ten years old at the time. It’s one of those events that you will remember for the rest of your life – where you were, who you were with – like the moon landings or 9/11. I was in a car outside a small newsagent when the news came on the radio. Robert F. Kennedy had been shot: first aural, then visual on the black and white TV that night, then textual in the newspapers and then visual again with this photograph, then associative. The pain of the loss of those heady days of hope lessens not.

 

Boris Yaro (American, born 1938) 'LOS ANGELES. KENNEDY MOMENTS AFTER SHOOTING' June 5, 1968

 

Boris Yaro (American, born 1938)
LOS ANGELES. KENNEDY MOMENTS AFTER SHOOTING. Sen. Robert F. Kennedy Lies Gravely Wounded on the floor at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles shortly after midnight today, moments after he was shot during a celebration of his victory in yesterday’s California primary election
June 5, 1968
Gelatin silver print
17.2 x 21.1 cm (6 3/4 x 8 5/16 in.)
Twentieth-Century Photography Fund, 2010

 

While photographs of the actual moment of death are rare I have been able to find around ten images that capture this vital moment, a freezing of reality at the point of death, the death point: that line between presence and absence where life was there… and now death is in its place. Death was one step removed, now it is present.

However, I would argue that in the contextual language of the photograph, there is no singular death point. I would propose the idea of an extended period of time and space embedded in the spatio-temporal matrix of the image, so that there is no single point, no singular resolution to the traumatic moment of death – either for the person involved, nor the witness or viewer.

Setting aside the concept that the image could have been staged, in Robert Capa’s famous photograph Loyalist Militiaman at the Moment of Death, Cerro Muriano, September 5, 1936 (below), there is something about this image where space or some basic element is being democratised at the moment of death – or maybe in the choice to struggle with death. In an ontological sense of becoming, perhaps it is this that becomes the pure representation of time. In contrapunto, there is an anonymous image of a German soldier at the point of death on the steppes of Russia that is totally unknown. Why has one become famous and the other not?

Has it to do with the fame of the photographer, the pose of the person, or the agency of photography itself, where one photograph regarding the pain of others is too damning a legacy and of too plain a purpose to bare contemplating, while the other – with its masked face, outflung arm and falling, quasi-religious nature – has become possibly the most famous of war photographs through its proliferation in newspapers and magazines.

Whatever the merits of each image, these death point photographs are noteworthy for what is not said: the violence that is being perpetrated on the victim every time a person looks, and looks again, at the photograph. The writing of trauma by photography never ends, is always and forever infinite.

 

Robert Capa (1913-1954) 'Loyalist Militiaman at the Moment of Death, Cerro Muriano, September 5, 1936' 1936

 

Robert Capa (1913-1954)
Loyalist Militiaman at the Moment of Death, Cerro Muriano, September 5, 1936
1936
Gelatin silver print
Photograph by Robert Capa © Cornell Capa / Magnum

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Falling German Soldier, Eastern Front' c. 1942

 

Anonymous photographer
Falling German Soldier, Eastern Front
c. 1942
akg-images / Interfoto AKG138118

Caption: A German soldier pays the ultimate price of war. German casualties were less than those of the Red Army, but the steady attrition suffered by the Wehrmacht began to undermine its effectiveness.46

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Russian spy laughing through his execution in Finland, 1942' 1942

Anonymous photographer. 'Russian spy laughing through his execution in Finland, 1942' 1942

 

Anonymous photographer
Russian spy laughing through his execution in Finland, 1942
1942
Rare Historical Photos website 2013

Caption: A Soviet spy laughs at his executioner in a picture taken in Rukajärvi, in East Karelia, in November 1942. It has been thought within the Finnish Defence Forces that the decision to withhold pictures of the fate of Russian POWs and spies may also have been prompted by concerns that pro-Soviet elements in Finnish society could have used the images for propaganda purposes. This picture was declassified by the Ministry of Defense of Finland in 2006, with the description: Unknown Soviet intelligence officer before being shot, Finland, 1942.

It’s a pretty amazing picture. To capture the last few moments of life. He knows he will die in a few seconds, in a forest in the snow. And there he will bleed out and be forgotten. His life, his experience, has come to an end. What else could he do but smile? That smile was his final defiance. Death smiles at us all, all a man can do is smile back.47

 

 

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Here we might ask, is it possible, through the use of encountered signs, “voice”, punctum, catch or accent, to extend the unreal time of death?

Personally, I believe it is and I would argue for a sense of a Buddhist “no-time”. A transcendent time embedded into the fabric of the image. In Walker Evans’ terms an “unconscious phenomenon” that culminates in amazing accidents of composition, where things constantly rub up against each other “in the desire to create a type of friction that tests the boundaries of representation.”48 An example of this spatio-temporal dimensionality, third meaning or Thirdspace, can be seen in the interplay between the still image and film footage of the execution of German General Anton Dostler by a firing squad in the Aversa stockade December 1, 1945. By examining the film we see a flash of light at 5.16 secs, which is the still photograph at the top of this text being taken by the flash of a camera. The photographer can then be seen walking off. Later in the film another angle of the execution is shown, again with the flash of the absent camera recorded, starting at 7.10 secs. The displacement of time and space, between one point of view and another, with the absence of the still camera in both instances (in the image and in the film), is uncanny.

The fluidity of Barthes’ third meaning, where the image’s obtuseness compels viewers, has obvious links to Edward Soja’s conceptualisation of “Thirdspace”, which emerged from the spatial trialectics established by Henri Lefebvre in The Production of Space and Michel Foucault’s concept of heterotopia. Soja defines Thirdspace as, “an-Other way of understanding and acting to change the spatiality of human life, a distinct mode of critical spatial awareness that is appropriate to the new scope and significance being brought about in the rebalanced trialectics of spatiality-historicality-sociality.”49 In this amorphous space, “everything comes together… subjectivity and objectivity, the abstract and the concrete, the real and the imagined, the knowable and the unimaginable, the repetitive and the differential, structure and agency, mind and body, consciousness and the unconscious, the disciplined and the transdisciplinary, everyday life and unending history.”50

A further example of the presence of a third meaning in a still photograph can be seen in the image by an unknown photographer Photo taken at the instant bullets from a French firing squad hit a Frenchman who collaborated with the Germans (1944, below). Caught like a rabbit in headlights, the flash illuminates the collaborator kneeling, bound, and masked but it is not quick enough to freeze the explosion of wood, the dynamic breaking of the rope or the slight movement of the hands. The body seems to float on a bed of leaves. The cheap, dirty shoes and striped trousers leading up to the material that covers the victim’s face. Is that his hair, or a hat or another hood over his head? Although we know the what, why, and where of the photograph – an encounter with both its literal/informational side and its symbolic dimensions – the placing of the image, its accent and obtuseness is much more difficult to understand. The photograph and its protagonist seem to exist beyond time and space, the anonymous man surrounded by a death bed of leaves, bursting the bonds that wrapped him and held him tight. Like the mystery of Man Ray’s L’Enigme d’Isidore Ducasse (1920), the photograph has disturbed the trialectics of spatiality-historicality-sociality, destroying the imploring label, “Do not disturb.”

 

Unknown photographer. 'Photo taken at the instant bullets from a French firing squad hit a Frenchman who collaborated with the Germans. This execution took place in Rennes, France. 21 November 1944'

 

Unknown photographer
Photo taken at the instant bullets from a French firing squad hit a Frenchman who collaborated with the Germans. This execution took place in Rennes, France. 21 November 1944
1944
Silver gelatin photograph
U.S. Army Signal Corps
National Archives Identifier (NAID)

 

 

Post-mortem: absent but present

7

 

Letherolfsvile Oct 29 AD 1859

This is the likeness of Catherine Christ

When I am dead and in my grave

And when my bones are rotten

Remember me

When this you see

Or I shall be forgotten

The grass is green The rose is red

here is my name when I am dead 51

 

 

This short poem written on a piece of paper hidden underneath an image in a daguerreotype case implores us to remember the person – a plea to the future to remember them – through a composite narrative of portrait and text. Through the creative addition of text, the language of photographs can be supplemented which adds to the functionality of the photograph as an effective memory object.52 But what if the scene of the text (the photograph) contains an absence, no depiction of the person who has died? What happens to the writing of trauma in images of the dead then?

If we acknowledge that a photograph of a person always prefigures its subjects passing then what we are doing “in reality” is deferring the death of an/other onto the foreseen death of ourselves. In this process, we must remember that every photograph is a construct, a performative act by the photographer. What the photographer chooses to record is an act of will, whether ethical or not. Photographers have the presence of mind to attend to a certain manufacture of history. When viewing this instant narrative the viewer must acknowledge a loss of a sense of time:

“This lost sense could manifest as reliving a traumatic episode as if it is taking place in the present … In the context of trauma… a loss of sense of time deprives one of the ability of remembering and telling one’s narrative in a chronological order.”53

 

Emmet Gowin (b. 1941) 'Avebury Stone and Rennie Booher, England and Danville, Virginia' 1972

 

Emmet Gowin (b. 1941)
Avebury Stone and Rennie Booher, England and Danville, Virginia
1972
Gelatin silver print
Collection of Emmet and Edith Gowin
© Edith and Emmet Gowin and courtesy of Pace MacGill Gallery, New York

 

 

One way that artist’s upset this chronological order is by playing with the fragmentary nature of time, space and memory – of present absence/absent presence. In Emmet Gowin’s accidentally double-exposed negative, Avebury Stone and Rennie Booher, England and Danville, Virginia, 1972 (above), the photograph combines “a funerary image of his wife’s grandmother, Rennie Booher, with the surface of a Neolithic monumental stone he had photographed in England a few days earlier.” Floating through eternity, encased in ancient rock that nourishes her spirit, Gowin’s photograph acts as a kind of testament of absent but present, neither here not there. This loss of sense of space and time can be deeply disturbing (like trauma) as it questions one’s physical presence in the world, but it can also have a transcendental dimension as both time and space are inextricably bound to the very specific conditions of the material world. Photographs like the one of Booher have the potential to draw together what would otherwise seem to be incompatible. To form what Jacob Bronowsi calls a “hidden likeness”, one that transcends time and space, one that is reactivated with every looking.

“The poem or the discovery exists in two moments of vision: the moment of appreciation as much as that of creation; for the appreciator must see the movement, wake to the echo which was started in the creation of the work. In the moment of appreciation we live again the moment when the creator saw and held the hidden likeness. When a simile takes us aback and persuades us together, when we find a juxtaposition in a picture both odd and intriguing, when a theory is at once fresh and convincing, we do not merely nod over someone else’s work. We re-enact the creative act, and we ourselves make the discovery again…”54

.
An important fact about the nature of trauma is the compulsion of the human psyche to repeat traumatic events over and over again. The reproducibility of photographs and the ability to look at them again and again – their machine-like repeatability, their citationality or iterability to use Derrida’s signature term – feeds into this repetitive “death instinct” (Thanatos). However, Bronowsi’s “hidden likeness” (also the name of one of Emmet Gowin’s exhibitions and a form of punctum) is perhaps a liminal moment, one that may upset the death instinct. These liminal moments may occupy a position at, or on both sides of, a boundary or threshold. By disrupting the threshold – between life and death, between past, present and future time – they are requisite of the ghost (the soul) in the machine (the camera).

As Derrida observes, building on the work of Barthes,

“It belongs to it without belonging to it and is unlocatable in it; it never inscribes itself in the homogenous objectivity of the framed space but instead inhabits, or rather haunts it: “it is the addition [supplement]: it is what I add to the photograph and what is none the less already there.” … Neither life nor death, it is the haunting of the one by the other … Ghosts: the concept of the other in the same, the punctum in the studium, the dead other alive in me.”57

 

8

In this scenario, perhaps the act of writing trauma through death in the image becomes the true act of learning, and the interpretation of that act becomes an act of creation rather than one of rote memorialisation. These are images that require contemplation, time, analysis, and sensation, where the subject of the photograph is transformed “from somebody merely seen to someone really felt,” which is, as Batchen says, “an emotional exchange transacted in the heart.”58

This emotional exchange can take many forms. It can be triggered when the dead body is only metaphorically represented in the image, when the physicality of death has been transmuted. For example, photographs such as Walker Evan’s Child’s grave, Hale County, Alabama (1936, below), or the documentary image Place where the corpse was found (1901-8, below) by the French photographer Alphonse Bertillon, propose a re-imaging and re-imagining of the life of the person. They do so through an un/ambiguous photographic context, that is, through the marking of place in the photograph. In the latter case, this marking of a life is represented by two pieces of wood lying on the ground and two pieces of wood propped at 45 degrees against the wall. As though this is all that is left of the existence of Mademoiselle Mercier in a street (Rue de l’Yvette) that still exists in Paris to this day. A photograph of pieces of wood and an empty space.

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975) 'Child's grave, Hale County, Alabama' 1936

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975)
Child’s grave, Hale County, Alabama
1936
Silver gelatin print
7 3/8 x 9 7/16″ (18.7 x 23.9 cm)
© 2016 Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

Attributed to Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853-1914) 'Place where the corpse was found' 1st November 1902

 

Attributed to Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853-1914)
Place where the corpse was found
1st November 1902
From Album of Paris Crime Scenes
Gelatin silver print
Overall: 24.3 x 31 cm (9 9/16 x 12 3/16 in.)
Page: 23 x 29 cm (9 1/16 x 11 7/16 in.)
Gilman Collection, Purchase, The Howard Gilman Foundation Gift, 2001

 

 

Other photographs picture the place of death nearly a century later in order to commemorate the traumatic death of “deserters” at the hands of a firing squad during the First World War. These are some of the most traumatic photographs of death I have seen, for they require me to imagine the mise en scène that was enacted at dawn almost 100 years ago, in the very place where these photographs were later “shot” at dawn.

The artist, Chloe Dewe Mathews, realised that “I was placing my tripod around the same spot where the firing squad had stood and looking directly at the place where the victim was placed.” It was, she says, “a solitary and sombre undertaking,” an undertaking (with that name’s etymological link to the word undertaker) which the viewer is invited to partake of, a re-imaging of those traumatic events that requires an active imagining, and thinking, in the neo-spectator. It is this duration of trauma in cultural memory which calls for an active negotiation in ways of seeing, a re-negotiation which can produce an empathic vision that “changes the terms of our engagement” with the image.

 

Chloe Dewe Mathews. 'Former Abattoir, Mazingarbe, Nord-Pas-de-Calais' 2013

 

Chloe Dewe Mathews (b. 1982)
Former Abattoir, Mazingarbe, Nord-Pas-de-Calais
2013
Eleven British soldiers were executed here between 1915-18
From the series Shot at Dawn
© Chloe Dewe Mathews

 

 

Vita ad mortem: life after death

9

 

.
“… the life of spirit is not the life that shrinks from death and keeps itself untouched by devastation, but rather the life that endures it and maintains itself in it. It wins its truth only when, in utter dismemberment, it finds itself.”

.
George Wilhelm Frederich Hegel61

 

 

The absence/presence contained within all photographs speaks to the ultimate affect: that of la petite mort – the “little death” – the sensation of orgasm as likened to death, a short period of melancholy or transcendence as a result of the expenditure of the “life force.” While Barthes metaphorically used the concept to describe the feeling one should get when experiencing any great literature, it can also be used when some undesired thing has happened to a person and has affected them so much that “a part of them dies inside.”

A photograph can also contain this melancholy transcendence, a catastrophe that has already occurred.

“Whether or not the subject is already dead, every photograph is this catastrophe… This punctum, more or less blurred beneath the abundance and the disparity of contemporary photographs, is vividly legible in historical photographs: there is always a defeat of Time in them: that is dead and that is going to die… At the limit, there is no need to represent a body [in photographs] in order for me to experience this vertigo of time defeated.”63

.
Barthes’ concept of an extended punctum may be useful here, when he states, “I now know that there exists another punctum (another ‘stigmatum’) than the ‘detail’. This new punctum, which is no longer of form but of intensity, is Time, the lacerating emphasis of the noeme (‘that-has-been’), its pure representation.”64

Here Barthes is proposing a punctum of intensity; a punctum as lacerating “detail”; and/or “the vertigo of time defeated.” This “temporal hallucination” embedded and embodied in the photograph – the temporality of the “will-have-been”, they are dead (today), they are already dead (yesterday), Barthes’ anterior future – represents a symbolically mediated subject bound up in three extases of time (past, present, and future).65

The subject becomes lost in the language of the photograph, the intersection of Lacan’s the Imaginary (in which the human subject creates fantasy images of both himself and his ideal object of desire), the Symbolic (the social world of linguistic communication and inter-subjective relations), and the Real (defined as what escapes the Symbolic, the Real can be neither spoken nor written, it is impossible, but is ceaselessly writing itself). These concepts serve to situate subjectivity within a system of perception and a dialogue with the external world.

According to Lori Wike, the experience of punctum and the structure of iterability can be aligned to Lacan’s concept of the death drive (or death instinct) present in the Symbolic order, in which the signifier “materializes the agency of death.”66 This may account for the role of the photographic punctum as trauma, in which the punctum opens up “a kind of subtle beyond” where “a blind field is created (is divined)…”67 As Barthes notes, “Photography is a kind of primitive theater, a kind of Tableau Vivant, a figuration of the motionless and made-up face beneath which we see the dead.”68 Further, we can say that, “unlike the symbolic, which is constituted in terms of oppositions such as “presence” and “absence”, there is no absence in the real,” for the real is undifferentiated, “it is without fissure.”

“The symbolic introduces “a cut in the real,” in the process of signification: “it is the world of words that creates the world of things.” Thus the real emerges as that which is outside language: “it is that which resists symbolization absolutely.” The real is impossible because it is impossible to imagine, impossible to integrate into the symbolic order. This character of impossibility and resistance to symbolization lends the real its traumatic quality.”69

.
The “mark” of photography is eviscerated in the intensity of the real, a traumatic loss of time that confronts us with our own mortality and the knowledge that we will not be remembered. This is where images of death can take us once the initial affective connection is established – to a noumenal space where in the play of representation, the point of origin becomes ungraspable (Lacan’s différance).70

“In French, différance simultaneously contains within its neo-graphism the activities of differing and deferring, a distancing acted out temporally as well as spatially.”71 Where the moment (the time freeze of the shutter) turns in, on and around its own fulcrum, where there is always difference at the point of origin. For all of its instantaneous nature, in photography there is always a perverse moment of displacement and deferral. In its history, “a perverse complicity of continuity and resemblance with its supposed opposite, discontinuity and difference”72 … the latter only existing in a reciprocal relationship to the former.

The circle is closing and we return to where we started.

 

10

Human beings in their longing for lost continuity are mirrored by their photographs which transition from continuous to discontinuous and back again. While we yearn for our lost continuity, we must acknowledge that death is an unedited event, one that we cannot look back on. There is no following event to blank out that moment… and the dead are always dying. But what images of death in photography do is this: they allow us to approach the noumenal, that state of being of which we can have knowledge of, but can never know. We can approach, touch, feel, analyse, and have empathy for traumatic events in the representation of an unknowable reality. The photograph has the ability to go beyond the symbolic, to approach the impossible, the real.

The photograph may proffer a ‘releasement toward things’,73 a coexistence between a conscious and unconscious way of perceiving which sustains the mystery of the object confusing the distinction between real time and sensual time, between inside and outside, input and output becoming neither here nor there. As Martin Jolly notes, citing John Thompson, “… images of death can be seen a form of “mediated, non-reciprocal intimacy, stretched across time and space” in which we are increasingly unconstrained by our location or our time.”74 Further, John Thompson observes, “While lived experience remains fundamental, it is increasingly supplemented by, and in some respects displaced by, mediated experience, which assumes a greater and greater role in the project of self-formation.”75

In the sense that the photograph becomes la petite mort, the little death, it embodies our desire for the soul to become eternal in the form of this mediated experience… the displacement of the soul via the ghost in the machine, the soul remembered throughout time in the traumatic trace of the photograph. Death in the language of photography is always postponed and deferred: into the physicality of the photograph; into cultural memory; into the gaze (of the photographer, the camera and the viewer); and into the body of the observer. Here, a relationship exists between an impossible reality (an encounter with an “outside” which is unknowable) and a floating referent in an image that is both formative and transformative. And in that relationship, as Donna Haraway observes, “Relationship is multiform, at stake, unfinished, consequential.”76

The text of eternity that the photograph proposes, imparts and imposes a paradoxical state of loss. The secret of telling truth in a photograph is that the more truthful, “the more orgasmic, the more pleasurable, the more suicidal”77 the pronouncement of the perfect paradox78 (you are dead but also alive) … then the more we are strangled while uttering it. The language of deferral in the writing of trauma in death and the image becomes the dissolve that seizes the subject in the midst of an eternal bliss. In death and the image we may actually die (be)coming.

© Dr Marcus Bunyan 2018

Word count: 8,137

 

 

Addendum

“Empirically acknowledged as tragic, the photographic print was really just that when, at the turn of the century, it became the instrument of the three great authorities over life and death (the law, the army, medicine). This is when it demonstrated its power to reveal the unfolding of a destiny from the word go. As deus ex machina [god from the machine or, providential intervention], it was to become just as ruthless for the criminal, the soldier or the invalid, the conjunction between the immediate and the fatal only becoming more solid, inevitably, with the progress of representation.”

Virilio, Paul. The Vision Machine (trans. Julie Rose). Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994, p. 43.

 

“Written with her trademark flair and force, Sontag’s book [On Photography] inaugurated a wave of criticism, much of it influenced by Foucaultian theory, that underscored the instrumentality and implicit violence of photography, its ability to police and regulate it subjects, especially those lacking social and political power: the poor, presumed “deviants” or “criminals,” and workers. As Sontag herself acknowledged, however, photography is not only a predatory means of taking possession, but also a mode of conferring value; it can potentially be put to counter-hegemonic uses, used to see and frame in ways that affirm and legitimate, rather than strictly contain and control, the presence of culturally disenfranchised persons.”

Entin, Joseph. “Milton Rogovin’s Approach: Photography, Class, and the Aesthetics of Making Space (2008),” on the ASX website July 12, 2010 [Online] Cited 27/10/2018

 

Adrien Constant de Rebecque (Swiss, Lausanne 1806-1876 Lausanne) '[Man in Chainmail Tunic Posing as a Dying Soldier]' c. 1863

 

Adrien Constant de Rebecque (Swiss, Lausanne 1806-1876 Lausanne)
[Man in Chainmail Tunic Posing as a Dying Soldier]
c. 1863
Albumen print from collodion glass negative
17.9 x 24.2 cm (7 1/16 x 9 1/2 in.)
Gilman Collection, Purchase, The Howard Gilman Foundation Gift, 2012
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

 

Manuel Álvarez Bravo. 'Ouvrier en grève, assassiné (Striking worker, assassinated)' 1934

 

Manuel Álvarez Bravo (Mexican, 1902-2002)
Ouvrier en grève, assassiné (Striking worker, assassinated)
1934
Silver gelatin print

 

Manuel Alvarez Bravo (Mexican, 1902-2002) 'La Buena Fama Durmiendo (The Good Reputation Sleeping)' 1939, printed c. 1970s

 

Manuel Alvarez Bravo (Mexican, 1902-2002)
La Buena Fama Durmiendo (The Good Reputation Sleeping)
1939, printed c. 1970s
Silver gelatin print

 

 

One of my early heroes in photography was Manuel Alvarez Bravo. Many Mexican photographs tell such stories based on the mythology of the country: there are elements of the absurd, surrealism, macabre, revolution, political and socio-economic issues, also of death, violence, beauty, youth, sexuality and religion to name but a few – a search for national identity that is balanced in the photographs of Bravo by a sense of inner peace and redemption. This potent mix of issues and emotions is what makes Mexican photography so powerful and substantive. In the “presence” (or present, the awareness of the here and now) of Mexican photography there is a definite calligraphy of the body in space in most of the work. This handwriting is idiosyncratic and emotive; it draws the viewer into an intimate narrative embrace. Two famous photographs by Bravo illustrate some of these themes (Apollonian/Dionysian; utopian/dystopian). When placed together they seem to have a strange attraction one to the other.

 

Anne Frank, photograph inscribed with her wish to go to Hollywood, October 10, 1942

 

Anne Frank, photograph inscribed with her wish to go to Hollywood, October 10, 1942

 

 

References

Atkinson, Meera and Michael Richardson 2013 ‘Introduction: At the Nexus’, in M Atkinson and M Richardson (eds) Traumatic Affect Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 1-21

Atkinson, Meera and Michael Richardson (eds) 2013 Traumatic Affect Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing

Barthes, Roland 1981 Camera Lucida – Reflections on Photography New York: Hill and Wang

Bataille, Georges 1962 Death and Sensuality: A Study of Eroticism and the Taboo New York: Walker and Company

Batchen, Geoffrey 2004 Forget Me Not: Photography & Remembrance New York: Princeton Architectural Press

Batchen, Geoffrey 1997 Burning with Desire: The Conception of Photography paperback 1999 Massachusetts: MIT Press

Bennett, Jill 2005 Empathic Vision: Affect, Trauma, and Contemporary Art Palo Alto: Stanford University Press

Berger, John 1985 The Sense of Sight New York: Vintage International

Brett, Donna West 2016 ‘Damaged: Ruin and Decay in Walker Evans’ Photographs’ Walker Evans Symposium Melbourne: Centre for Contemporary Photography

Bronowski, Jacob 1958 Science and Human Values New York: Harper and Row

Brown, Andrew (ed. and trans,) 1987 Sophocles: Antigone Wiltshire: Aris and Phillips Ltd.

Cadava, Eduardo 1992 ‘Words of Light: Theses on the Photography of History’ Diacritics 22 no. 3-4 (Fall-Winter), 84-114

Chaouat, Bruno 2005 ‘Image malgré tout’ (review) L’Esprit Créateur vol. 45 no. 1, 110-111

Deleuze, Gilles 1964 Proust and Signs New York: George Braziller, 1972 in English

Edwards, Janis L. 2012 ‘Visual Literacy and Visual Politics: Photojournalism and the 2004 Presidential Debates’ Communication Quarterly vol. 60 issue 5, 681-197

Foucault, Michel 1988 ‘Technologies of the self’ in L H Martin and H Gutman and P H Hutton (eds) Technologies of the self: A seminar with Michel Foucault Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 16-49

Gibbs, Anna 2013 ‘Apparently Unrelated: Affective Resonance, Concatenation and Traumatic Circuitry in the Terrain of the Everyday’ in M Atkinson and M Richardson (eds) Traumatic Affect Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 129-147

Gibbs, Anna 2007 ‘Horrified: Embodied Vision, Media Affect and the Images from Abu Ghraib’ in D Staines (ed) Interrogating the War on Terror Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 125-142

Hanusch, Folker 2010 Representing death in the news: Journalism, Media and Mortality London: Palgrave Macmillan

Haraway, Donna and Cary Wolfe 2016 Manifestly Haraway Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press

Hegel, George Wilhelm Frederich 1807 Phenomenology of Spirit Preface (trans. A. V. Miller 1977) Oxford: Oxford University Press

Heidegger, Martin 1966 Discourse on Thinking New York: Harper & Row

Houlihan, Kasia 2004 ‘Annotation on Roland Barthes’ Camera Lucida – Reflections on Photography’ New York: Hill and Wang 1981 in Theories of Media, Winter

Jolly, Martyn 2015 ‘An Australian Spiritualist’s Personal Cartes-de-Visite Album’, in A Maxwell and J Croci (eds) Shifting Focus: Colonial Australian Photography 1850-1920 North Melbourne: Australian Scholarly Publishing, 71-87

Kopelson, Kevin 1990 ‘Wilde, Barthes, and the Orgasmics of Truth’ in GENDERS no. 7 Spring, 22-31

Lacan, Jacques and Jeffrey Mehlman 1972 ‘The Seminar on the ‘Purloined Letter” in Yale French Studies no. 48 French Freud: Structural Studies in Psychoanalysis Yale University Press, 39-72

Martin, Luther H and H Gutman and P H Hutton (eds) 1988 Technologies of the self: A seminar with Michel Foucault Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press

Maxwell, Anne and Josephine Croci (eds) 2015 Shifting Focus: Colonial Australian Photography 1850-1920 North Melbourne: Australian Scholarly Publishing

O’Hagan, Sean 2014 ‘Chloe Dewe Mathews’s Shot at Dawn: a moving photographic memorial’ The Guardian website

Papastergiadis, Nikos and Mary Zournazi 2002 ‘Faith without certitudes’ in M Zournazi Hope: New Philosophies for Change Annandale NSW: Pluto Press Australia, 78-97

Randell, Karen and Sean Redmond (eds) 2008 The war body on screen, New York: Continuum

Rastas, David and Maria Schlachter 2016 Art as a Sanctuary for the Mad: Six characteristics of mystical experience and their visual accompaniment in contemporary art

Rogobete, Ileana Carmen 2011 Reconstructing Trauma and Recovery: Life Narratives of Survivors of Political Violence during Apartheid PhD thesis Cape Town: University of Cape Town

Rutherford, Anne 2013 ‘Film, Trauma and the Enunciative Present’ in M Atkinson and M Richardson (eds) Traumatic Affect Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 80-103

Sontag, Susan 1977 On Photography New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Staines, Deborah (ed) 2007 Interrogating the War on Terror Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Publishing

Strawberry 2013 ‘Roland Barthes: studium and punctum’ Museum of Education website

Thompson, John 1995 The Media and Modernity: A Social Theory of Media Cambridge: Polity Press

Virilio, Paul 1994 The Vision Machine (trans. Julie Rose). Bloomington: Indiana University Press

Walsh, Stephen 2000 Stalingrad: The Infernal Cauldron, 1942-43 London: Simon and Schuster

Wike, Lori 2000 ‘Photographs and Signatures: Absence, Presence, and Temporality in Barthes and Derrida’ In[]Visible Culture: An Electronic Journal for Visual Studies issue 3, 1-28

Zelizer, Barbie 2002 The Voice of the Visual in Memory Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania

Zembylas, Michalinos 2008 The Politics of Trauma in Education New York: Palgrave Macmillan

 

 

Endnotes

[1] Berger, John 1985 The Sense of Sight New York: Vintage International, 122

[2] Bataille, Georges 1962 Death and Sensuality: A Study of Eroticism and the Taboo New York: Walker and Company, 15

[3] Anonymous 2016 Definition of Trauma by Mirriam-Webster, at http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/trauma (accessed 8 November 2016)

[4] Atkinson, Meera and Michael Richardson 2013 ‘Introduction: At the Nexus’ in M Atkinson and M Richardson (eds) Traumatic Affect Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 5

[5] Rutherford, Anne 2013 ‘Film, Trauma and the Enunciative Present’ in M Atkinson and M Richardson (eds) Traumatic Affect Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 82

[6] Michalinos Zembylas 2008 The Politics of Trauma in Education, New York: Palgrave Macmillan 4

[7] Ibid., 4

[8] Rutherford Op. cit., 87

[9] Rutherford Op. cit., Footnote 49, 93

[10] Rutherford Op. cit., 94

[11] Bennett, Jill 2005 Empathic Vision: Affect, Trauma, and Contemporary Art Palo Alto: Stanford University Press, 9

[12] Rogobete, Ileana Carmen 2011 Reconstructing Trauma and Recovery: Life Narratives of Survivors of Political Violence during Apartheid PhD thesis Cape Town: University of Cape Town, at https://open.uct.ac.za/handle/11427/10884 (accessed 8 November 2016)

[13] Rutherford Op. cit., 85

[14] Gibbs, Anna 2013 ‘Apparently Unrelated: Affective Resonance, Concatenation and Traumatic Circuitry in the Terrain of the Everyday’ in M Atkinson and M Richardson (eds) Traumatic Affect Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 130

[15] “Perhaps rather than numbness, what we actually feel is our own helplessness or impotence, and the shame of helplessness, which robs us of agency. Helplessness is what Tomkins calls an affect complex, and within it distress is the dominant affect, although there may be admixtures in it of fear, anger and shame… Helplessness immobilises, and this is what induces the shame which, as a reduction of interest, makes us lower our gaze and look away.”

Gibbs, Anna 2007 ‘Horrified: Embodied Vision, Media Affect and the Images from Abu Ghraib’ in D Staines (ed) Interrogating the War on Terror Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 139-140

[16] “To suffer is one thing; another thing is living with the photographed images of suffering, which does not necessarily strengthen conscience and the ability to be compassionate. It can also corrupt them. Once one has seen such images, one has started down the road of seeing more – and more. Images transfix. Images anaesthetize…”

Sontag, Susan 1977 On Photography New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux 20

“Are we making too much of images? Are we lured by our own voyeurism and iconophilia, numbed as we are by the democracy of the spectacle? Or, on the contrary, do images open the eyes of our conscience? In other words do images merely entertain and anaesthetize us or do they shame us and awake our conscience?”

Chaouat, Bruno 2005 ‘Image malgré tout’ (review) in L’Esprit Créateur vol. 45 no. 1, at https://muse.jhu.edu/article/265181/pdf (accessed 8 November 2016)

[17] Rutherford Op. cit., 89

[18] Anonymous 2016 ‘Lynching in the United States’, at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lynching_in_the_United_States (accessed 11 November 2016)

[19] Anonymous 2016 ‘Strange Fruit: Billie Holiday’, at http://genius.com/Billie-holiday-strange-fruit-lyrics (accessed 11 November 2016)

[20] ‘Billie Holiday – Strange Fruit’, at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dnlTHvJBeP0 (accessed 11 November 2016)

[21] Rutherford Op. cit., Footnote 55, 95

[22] Bennett, Jill 2005 Empathic Vision: Affect, Trauma, and Contemporary Art Palo Alto: Stanford University Press, 4 quoted in Rutherford, 95

[23] Ibid., 11

[24] Deleuze, Gilles 1964 Proust and Signs New York: George Braziller (1972 in English) 7, in Bennett 161

[25] Bennett Op. cit., 10

[26] Papastergiadis, Nikos and Mary Zournazi 2002 ‘Faith without certitudes’ in M Zournazi Hope: New Philosophies for Change 94-95, in Bennett, 10

[27] Hanusch, Folker 2010 Representing death in the news: Journalism, Media and Mortality London: Palgrave Macmillan, 55

[28] Ibid., 56

[29] Ibid., 56

[30] Randell, Karen and Redmond, Sean (eds) 2008 The war body on screen New York: Continuum, cited in Hanusch, 30

[31] Foucault, Michel 1988 ‘Technologies of the self’, in L H Martin and H Gutman and P H Hutton (eds) Technologies of the self: A seminar with Michel Foucault Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 18

[32] Barthes, Roland 1980 La Chambre Claire (Camera Lucida) (1981 in English) New York: Hill and Wang Section 39, 94

[33] Houlihan, Kasia 2004 ‘Annotation on Roland Barthes’ Camera Lucida – Reflections on Photography’ New York: Hill and Wang 1981 in Theories of Media, Winter at http://csmt.uchicago.edu/annotations/barthescamera.htm (accessed 12 November 2016)

[34] Strawberry 2013 ‘Roland Barthes: studium and punctum’ Museum of Education website 12 March, at https://educationmuseum.wordpress.com/2013/03/12/roland-barthes-studium-and-punctum/ (accessed 11 November 2016)

[35] “For memory is always in a state of ruin; to remember something is already to have ruined it, to have displaced it from its moment of origin. Memory is caught in a conundrum – the passing of time that makes memory possible and necessary is also what makes memory fade and die.”

Batchen, Geoffrey 2004 Forget Me Not: Photography & Remembrance New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 78

[36] Cadava, Eduardo 1992 ‘Words of Light: Theses on the Photography of History’ Diacritics 22 no. 3-4 (Fall-Winter), 110 in Batchen 172

[37] Bennett Op. cit., 7

[38] Ibid., 7

[39] Zelizer, Barbie 2002 The Voice of the Visual in Memory, at http://www.sas.upenn.edu/folklore/center/ConferenceArchive/voiceover/voice_of_the_visual.html (accessed 13 November 2016)

[40] Ibid.,

[41] Brown, Andrew (ed. and trans,) 1987 Sophocles: Antigone, lines 850-52 Wiltshire: Aris and Phillips Ltd., 91

[42] Edwards, Janis L 2012 ‘Visual Literacy and Visual Politics: Photojournalism and the 2004 Presidential Debates’ Taylor Francis Online at http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/01463373.2012.725000 (accessed 13 November 2016)

[43] Zelizer Op. cit.,

[44] Sontag Op. cit., 18 cited in F Hanusch 2010 Representing death in the news: Journalism, Media and Mortality London: Palgrave Macmillan, 105

[45] See ‘Robert Capa: The Falling Soldier’, The Met website, at http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/283315 (accessed 13 November 2016)

[46] Walsh, Stephen 2000 Stalingrad: The Infernal Cauldron, 1942-43 London: Simon and Schuster, 23

[47] Anonymous photographer 2013 ‘Russian spy laughing through his execution in Finland, 1942’, Rare Historical Photos website 29 December, at http://rarehistoricalphotos.com/russian-spy-laughing-execution-finland-1942/ (accessed 13 November 2016)

[48] Brett, Donna West 2016 ‘Damaged: Ruin and Decay in Walker Evans’ Photographs’ Walker Evans Symposium Melbourne: Centre for Contemporary Photography October 7, 5 at https://www.academia.edu/29201498/Damaged_Ruin_and_Decay_in_Walker_Evans_Photographs (accessed 13 November 2016)

[49] Soja, Edward W. 1996 Thirdspace Malden (Mass.): Blackwell, 57

[50] Ibid., 57

[51] Batchen Op. cit., 47

[52] Ibid., 48

[53] Rastas, David 2016 Art as a Sanctuary for the Mad: Six characteristics of mystical experience and their visual accompaniment in contemporary art, at http://www.davidrastas.com/kunstglaube/madness&mysticism/essays.html (accessed 19 November 2016)

[54] Bronowski, Jacob 1958, Science and Human Values New York: Harper and Row, 31

[55] Anonymous 2015. ‘Hidden Likeness: Photographer Emmet Gowin at the Morgan’, The Morgan Library & Museum website May 22 through September 20, 2015 https://www.themorgan.org/exhibitions/emmet-gowin (accessed 08 May 2018)

[56] See Turner, Victor 1966 The Ritual Process: Structure and Antistructure Chicago: Aldine. For a definition of liminality see Anonymous ‘Liminality’, Wikipedia website https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liminality (accessed 08 May 2018)

[57] Batchen, Geoffrey 1997 Burning with Desire: The Conception of Photography (paperback 1999) Massachusetts: MIT Press, 194

[58] Batchen Forget Me Not, 94

[59] O’Hagan, Sean 2014 ‘Chloe Dewe Mathews’s Shot at Dawn: a moving photographic memorial’ The Guardian website 29 June, at https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2014/jun/29/chloe-dewe-mathews-shot-at-dawn-moving-photographic-memorial-first-world-war (accessed 25 November 2016)

[60] Bennett 2005 Empathic Vision 69

[61] Hegel, George Wilhelm Frederich 1807 Phenomenology of Spirit Preface (trans. A. V. Miller 1977) Oxford: Oxford University Press, 10

[62] Anonymous 2016 ‘La petite mort’ Wikipedia website at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/La_petite_mort (accessed 25 November 2016)

[63] Barthes Op. cit., 96

[64] Barthes Op. cit., 96

[65] See Wike, Lori 2000 ‘Photographs and Signatures: Absence, Presence, and Temporality in Barthes and Derrida’ in In[]Visible Culture: An Electronic Journal for Visual Studies issue 3, at http://www.rochester.edu/in_visible_culture/issue3/wike.htm#BackFromNote10 (accessed 25 November 2016)

[66] Lacan, Jacques and Jeffrey Mehlman 1972 ‘The Seminar on the ‘Purloined Letter’’ in Yale French Studies, no. 48, 53 quoted in Wike 2000

[67] Barthes Camera Lucida, 57-58 quoted in Wike 2000

[68] Barthes Camera Lucida, 31-32 quoted in Wike 2000

[69] Anonymous 2016, ‘The Real’, Wikipedia website at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Real (accessed 25 November 2016)

[70] “Derrida sees differences as elemental oppositions working in all languages, systems of distinct signs, and codes, where terms don’t have absolute meanings but instead draw meaning from reciprocal determination with other terms… Différance is the systematic play of differences, of the traces of differences, of the spacing by means of which elements are related to each other… the a of différance also recalls that spacing is temporization, the detour and postponement by means of which intuition, perception, consummation – in a word, the relationship to the present, the reference to a present reality, to a being – are always deferred.”

Anonymous 2016 ‘Différance’ at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Différance (accessed 25 November 2016

[71] Batchen Burning with Desire 179. Information on photography and differance 178-179.

[72] Batchen Burning with Desire 186

[73] “We stand at once within the realm of that which hides itself from us, and hides itself just in approaching us. That which shows itself and at the same time withdraws is the essential trait of what we call the mystery… Releasement towards things and openness to the mystery belong together. They grant us the possibility of dwelling in the world in a totally different way…”

Heidegger, Martin 1966 Discourse on Thinking New York: Harper & Row, 55-56

[74] Thompson, John 1995 The Media and Modernity: A Social Theory of Media Cambridge: Polity Press, 208 quoted in M Jolly 2015 ‘An Australian Spiritualist’s Personal Cartes-de-Visite Album’ in A Maxwell and J Croci (eds) Shifting Focus: Colonial Australian Photography 1850-1920 North Melbourne: Australian Scholarly Publishing, 84

[75] Thompson 233 quoted in Jolly 2015

[76] Haraway, Donna and Cary Wolfe 2016 Manifestly Haraway Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 122, at https://muse.jhu.edu/ (accessed 26 November 2016)

[77] Kopelson, Kevin 1990 ‘Wilde, Barthes, and the Orgasmics of Truth’ GENDERS no 7 Spring, 26

[78] You are dead but also alive, the dissolution of the distinction between objective and subjective realities, “the image is an interface connecting inner and outer, past and future, affect and cognition.”

Gibbs, Anna 2007 ‘Horrified: Embodied Vision, Media Affect And The Images From Abu Ghraib’ in D Staines (ed) Interrogating the War on Terror Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 130

 

 

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17
Jul
16

Exhibition: ‘Crime Stories: Photography and Foul Play’ at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Exhibition dates: 7th March – 31st July 2016

 

One wrong does not a life make

A very large posting on a fascinating subject, for an exhibition that examines “the numerous ways that photography has influenced that favorite human activity, speculating about crimes and the people who commit them.” As the press release notes, “Since the earliest days of the medium, photographs have been used for criminal investigation and evidence gathering, to record crime scenes, to identify suspects and abet their capture, and to report events to the public. This exhibition explores the multifaceted intersections between photography and crime…” And all this history displayed in just two gallery spaces!

Of course, what the press release fails to note is that it is often the very people in power (the police, judiciary, and even the photographer) who name and shame those whose likenesses are captured by the camera. In other words, the people in these photographs are already labelled – deviant, lifter, wife poisoner, forger, sneak thief; cracksman, pickpocket, burglar, highwayman; murderer, counterfeiter, abortionist – before their photograph is ever taken. They have already been dressed for the part. This verdict is further reinforced when images, such as those by Weggee, appear in newspapers and, using Walker Evans phrase, the “Ladies and gentlemen of the jury” confirm what has been fed to them. As noted in the text in the posting about the photographs of Samuel G. Szabó, “Would the serious young man in the overcoat and silk top hat appear roguish without the caption “John McNauth alias Keely alias little hucks / Pick Pocket” below his portrait?” I think not (which is what the viewer does when confronted with the veracity of the photograph and the text supplied by those in a position of power)… therefore I am.

What strikes me about the “mugshot” photographs of Samuel G. Szabó and Alphonse Bertillon is the ordinariness of the people he captured – tailor, printer, accountant, photographer, seamstress – and how they have forever been labelled “anarchists”. Nothing is known of the rest of their lives and a search on the internet reveals nothing about them, except those people indelibly printed onto the fabric of history: Ravachol, murderer and anarchist who was bent on improving the conditions of the poor (no name or age under his photograph); and Félix Fénéon – head and eyes directed away from the camera whereas most others stare straight into the camera (upon direction) – all haughty superiority, as though the process of being photographed as an “anarchist” was beneath the witty critique (no name or age under his photograph as well). Only by this is it recorded that they are morally suspicious and this is done at the behest of the authorities. Whatever else they did in their life counts as if for nothing.

What also strikes me about the “en situ” photographs of the habitats of the murdered victims and the places where they were found, is again the mundanity of the interiors and places of execution. In the photographs that document the Assassination of Monsieur V. Lecomte, 74 Rue des Martyrs, 1902 we note the ephemera of human existence – the photographs standing on three-tiered wooden shelves, the open box on the table, the body on the floor – photographed from both directions, once with the camera pointing towards the windows, the other from 180 degrees, with the camera pointing into the room. And then we notice the mantlepiece photographed from another direction, with the open box on the table. And the bound and gagged man on the floor is still on the floor out of frame. And then another place of murder, that of the ending of a life, marked out in Bertillon’s photograph “Place where the corpse was found” by two pieces of wood laying on the ground and two pieces of wood propped at 45 degrees against the wall. As though this is all that is left of the existence of Mademoiselle Mercier along a street (Rue de l’Yvette) that still exists in Paris to this day … a photograph of pieces of wood and an empty space. Pace HEAD by Weggee.

It’s all about the stories, or the lack of them, that these photographs tell/sell. Weggee’s photographs of a sixteen-year old child killer, Frank Pape, are brutal in their exposure of this adolescent man. The way the horizontal negative has been cropped over and over again, to gain best effect, best value for the tabloid dollar, gives an idea of the pejorative pronunciation of guilt upon this individual before trial. What happened to Frank Pape? I’ve been digging, trying to find out… but nothing. Did he live, was he executed? What led him to that point and what happened to the rest of his life? This is the great unknown after the click of the shutter, the key in the lock, the silence of history. Here I am not advocating for the celebrity of the criminal, as in Richard Avedon’s photographs of the murderer Dick Hickock, but an acknowledgement that one wrong does not a life make.

But then again, for the victim, in shootings like that of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy – the pain of the photograph and the look in his eyes says it all. Here he is a victim, twice over (the victim of the assassin and the camera), and is to remain a victim for eternity, as long as people look at this photograph. This is such a sad and painful photograph. I remember the day it happened. I was ten years old at the time, and it’s one of those events that you will always remember the rest of you life, where you were, who you were with – like the moon landings or 9/11. I was in a car outside a small shop and the news came on the radio. Robert F. Kennedy had been shot – first aural, then visual on the black and white tv that night, then textual in the newspapers and then visual again with this photograph. The pain of the loss of those heady days of hope lessen not. Today we live in a police state where surveillance and recognition are everything, where those in power seek to control and regulate ever more the freedom of the people, and the people are lost to anonymity and time.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for Art Blart

Word count: 1,046

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Many thankx to the Metropolitan Museum of Art for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

“Crime Stories: Photography and Foul Play,” an exhibit currently on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, proposes to examine the numerous ways that photography has influenced that favorite human activity, speculating about crimes and the people who commit them. This would be an ambitious undertaking for a ten-room show; this one is limited to only two. The result is something of a hodgepodge, hemmed in by a vague set of constraints. The bulk of the photos were taken in the United States between the mid-nineteenth and mid-twentieth centuries, none after the seventies, and all are in black and white, as if to emphasize their historical remove from our own filtered times. But the aesthetic and ethical questions the exhibit raises – about the American attraction to criminal glamour, and our queasy, not always critical fascination with looking at violence – are the right ones to ask during the current vogue for “true crime,” that funny phrase we use for stories told in public about terrible things others suffer privately.

.
Alexandra Schwartz. “The Long Collusion of Photography and Crime,” on The New Yorker website

 

 

“Since the earliest days of the medium, photographs have been used for criminal investigation and evidence gathering, to record crime scenes, to identify suspects and abet their capture, and to report events to the public. This exhibition explores the multifaceted intersections between photography and crime, from 19th-century “rogues’ galleries” to work by contemporary artists inspired by criminal transgression. The installation will feature some 70 works, drawn entirely from The Met collection, ranging from the 1850s to the present.

Among the highlights of the installation is Alexander Gardner’s documentation of the events following the assassination of President Lincoln, as well as rare forensic photographs by Alphonse Bertillon, the French criminologist who created the system of criminal identification that gave rise to the modern mug shot. Also on display is a vivid selection of vintage news photographs related to cases both obscure and notorious, such as a study of John Dillinger’s feet in a Chicago morgue in 1934; Jack Ruby shooting Lee Harvey Oswald in 1963; and Patty Hearst captured by bank surveillance cameras in 1974. In addition to exploring photography’s evidentiary uses, the exhibition will feature work by artists who have drawn inspiration from the criminal underworld, including Richard Avedon, Larry Clark, Walker Evans, John Gutmann, Andy Warhol, and Weegee.”

Text from the Metropolitan Museum of Art website

 

 

Unknown (American) '[John Dillinger's Feet, Chicago Morgue]' 1934

 

Unknown (American)
[John Dillinger’s Feet, Chicago Morgue]
1934
Gelatin silver print
4 11/16 x 7 13/16 in. (11.9 x 19.8 cm)
Purchase, The Marks Family Foundation Gift, 2001
© Bettmann / CORBIS

 

 

This press photo of John Dillinger, the celebrity gangster from Chicago shot down at age 31, morbidly embodies the twentieth-century’s obsession with fame and hunger for physical contact with media personae. As the Depression era’s most successful bank robber, Dillinger had become a folk hero for his brash, cocky manner and disregard for authority. This unflinching view of Dillinger laid out on a slab in the Chicago morgue not only bares the facts but ironically recalls Mantegna’s The Lamentation Over the Dead Christ (c. 1490).

 

 

Unknown (American) [Jeff Briggs, Robert Sims, Otis Hall, and Peter Pamphlet; Full-Length Mugshot from the Chicago Police Department] 1936

 

Unknown (American)
[Jeff Briggs, Robert Sims, Otis Hall, and Peter Pamphlet; Full-Length Mugshot from the Chicago Police Department]
1936
Gelatin silver prints
Image: 5 15/16 × 9 1/8 in. (15.1 × 23.1 cm) Sheet: 6 1/8 × 9 5/16 in. (15.6 × 23.6 cm)
Twentieth-Century Photography Fund, 2014

 

Unknown (American) [Jeff Briggs, Robert Sims, Otis Hall, and Peter Pamphlet; Full-Length Mugshot from the Chicago Police Department] 1936

 

Unknown (American)
[Jeff Briggs, Robert Sims, Otis Hall, and Peter Pamphlet; Full-Length Mugshot from the Chicago Police Department]
1936
Gelatin silver prints
Image: 5 15/16 × 9 1/8 in. (15.1 × 23.1 cm) Sheet: 6 1/8 × 9 5/16 in. (15.6 × 23.6 cm)
Twentieth-Century Photography Fund, 2014

 

 

The Chicago Police Department likely made these discarded file photographs when arrested suspects entered the precinct for booking. Each is accompanied by a typewritten caption recording the subjects’ names, vital statistics, and, in some cases, the crimes for which they were arrested (carrying concealed weapons, assault and robbery at gunpoint). With their subjects lined up theatrically against a dark velvet curtain, the images vividly evoke an era and milieu familiar to fans of film noir and hard-boiled detective fiction of the 1930s and 1940s.

A similar defiant dignity is evident in two booking photographs taken by the Chicago Police Department, part of a series made between 1936 and 1946. In the first, four black men in suits line up in front of what seems to be a theatre curtain. In the second, they strike the same pose, now in longer coats and with hats, as if auditioning for different parts in the same play. One of the men smiles affably, a flash of personality in a process meant to cloak it. The others look out evenly, returning the camera’s gaze and reminding whoever is behind the shutter that they, too, have the power to see.

 

Walker Evans (American, St. Louis, Missouri 1903–1975 New Haven, Connecticut) '[Subway Passengers, New York City]' 1938

 

Walker Evans (American, St. Louis, Missouri 1903 – 1975 New Haven, Connecticut)
[Subway Passengers, New York City]
1938
Gelatin silver print
12.2 x 15.0 cm (4 13/16 x 5 15/16 in.)
Gift of Arnold H. Crane, 1971
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

 

“Ladies and gentlemen of the jury,” Evans called his unwitting subjects. In this example, a smirking, vaguely menacing young man is engrossed in his copy of the Daily News. PAL TELLS HOW GUNGIRL KILLS, reads the headline. An obese woman, obviously not an acquaintance, sits miserably beside him.

During the winter months between 1938 and 1941, Evans strapped a camera to his midsection, cloaked it with his overcoat, and snaked a cable release down his suit sleeve to photograph New York City subway passengers unawares. In his book of these unposed portraits, Many Are Called (1966), the artist referred to his quarry as “the ladies and gentlemen of the jury.” What he was after stylistically, though, was more in keeping with the criminal mug shot: frontal and without emotional inflection. In this photograph, the tabloid headline “PAL TELLS HOW GUNGIRL KILLED” across the newspaper nods to Evans’s interest in vernacular source material.

Inspired by the incisive realism of Honoré Daumier’s Third-Class Carriage, Walker Evans sought to avoid the vanity, sentimentality, and artifice of conventional studio portraiture. The subway series, he later said, was “my idea of what a portrait ought to be: anonymous and documentary and a straightforward picture of mankind.”

 

 

Weegee (American, born Ukraine (Austria), Złoczów (Zolochiv) 1899 - 1968 New York) 'A Bunch of Cops' 1940s

 

Weegee (American, born Ukraine (Austria), Złoczów (Zolochiv) 1899 – 1968 New York)
A Bunch of Cops
1940s
Gelatin silver print
Gift of Bruce A. Kirstein, in memory of Marc S. Kirstein, 1978
© Weegee / International Center of Photography

 

 

Richard Avedon (American, New York 1923 - 2004 San Antonio, Texas) 'Dick Hickock, Murderer, Garden City, Kansas' April 1960

 

Richard Avedon (American, New York 1923 – 2004 San Antonio, Texas)
Dick Hickock, Murderer, Garden City, Kansas
April 1960
Gelatin silver print
Image: 50.8 x 50.8 cm (20 x 20 in.)
Frame: 59.7 x 59.7 cm (23 1/2 x 23 1/2 in.)
Gift of the artist, 2002
© Richard Avedon

 

 

In April 1960 Avedon traveled to Garden City, Kansas, to photograph the individuals connected with the savage murder of the four-member Clutter family in their remote farmhouse. He came at the request of his friend Truman Capote, who was there gathering material for his groundbreaking true-crime novel In Cold Blood (1966). Working with a handheld Rolleiflex camera, Avedon made this striking photograph of one of the killers, Richard “Dick” Hickcock, while he was in jail awaiting trial. The mug shot-like portrait captures Hickock’s sullen, lopsided face with mesmerizing clarity, as if searching for physiognomic clues to his criminal pathology.

.
“One of the show’s most striking pictures is a Richard Avedon portrait of Dick Hickock, one of the two murderers immortalized in Truman Capote’s true-crime touchstone “In Cold Blood.” Hickock and Perry Smith, both ex-convicts out on parole, had set out to rob the home of Herbert Clutter, a farmer in Holcomb, Kansas; when they didn’t find the safe they’d been looking for, they killed Clutter, his wife, and his two children. Looking at Hickock’s mug shot, Capote writes, the wife of the case’s investigator is reminded “of a bobcat she’d once seen caught in a trap, and of how, though she’d wanted to release it, the cat’s eyes, radiant with pain and hatred, had drained her of pity and filled her with terror.” Here, Hickock gets the soft-focus celebrity treatment, the line between notoriety and fame as blurred as ever. Hickock, according to Capote, had always been self-conscious about his long, lopsided face. His nose juts out at a Picasso angle, and while his right eye meets Avedon’s lens straight on, his smaller left one seems to look inward. The result is a double portrait, part persona, part awkward, vulnerable self, both haunted by Capote’s own verbal portrait of Hickock’s victims, the Clutter family, at their funeral: “The head of each was completely encased in cotton, a swollen cocoon twice the size of an ordinary blown-up balloon, and the cotton, because it had been sprayed with a glossy substance, twinkled like Christmas-tree snow.”

Alexandra Schwartz. “The Long Collusion of Photography and Crime,” on The New Yorker website April 9 2016 [Online] Cited 15/07/2016

 

Richard Avedon (American, New York 1923 - 2004 San Antonio, Texas) 'Dick Hickock, Murderer, Garden City, Kansas' April 1960

 

Richard Avedon (American, New York 1923 – 2004 San Antonio, Texas)
Dick Hickock, Murderer, Garden City, Kansas
April 1960
Gelatin silver print
Image: 50.8 x 50.8 cm (20 x 20 in.)
Frame: 59.7 x 59.7 cm (23 1/2 x 23 1/2 in.)
Gift of the artist, 2002
© Richard Avedon

 

 

“Richard Avedon is represented by his 1960 portrait of Dick Hickock, the Kansas murderer who was one of the subjects of Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood. In his typical style, Avedon presents a large-scale investigation of Hickock’s face: the black greased pompadour combed just so, the slightly fleshy nose, the disturbingly engaging eyes, all of it ever so slightly skewed by the impression of Hickock’s inscrutable lopsided grievance. (Hickock had suffered a brain injury in an automobile accident when he was nineteen.) As with Gardner’s 1865 portrait of Lewis Powell (who was also executed by hanging for his crime), you sense how seriously Hickock takes being photographed, his wish to give something of himself, to influence, if not control, the emanations of his image and how he is being portrayed.”

Michael Greenberg. “Caught in the Act,” on The New York Review of Books website, April 7, 2016 [Online] Cited 22/06/2016

 

Robert H. Jackson (American, born 1934) 'FATAL BULLET HITS OSWALD. Jack Ruby fires bullet point blank into the body of Lee Harvey Oswald at Dallas Police Station. Oswald grimaces in agony' November 24, 1963

 

Robert H. Jackson (American, born 1934)
FATAL BULLET HITS OSWALD. Jack Ruby fires bullet point blank into the body of Lee Harvey Oswald at Dallas Police Station. Oswald grimaces in agony
November 24, 1963
Gelatin silver print
Image: 16.8 x 19.5 cm (6 5/8 x 7 11/16 in.) Sheet: 20.5 x 20.1 cm (8 1/16 x 7 15/16 in.)
Twentieth-Century Photography Fund, 2011

 

 

Before today’s fast-paced twenty-four hour news cycle, an eager American public followed the development of criminal investigations through the gray tones of press photographs. News outlets used a wire service to send images via in-house or portable transmitters, converting black-and-white tones into electrical pulses that were instantaneously received and printed using the same technology. Mundane courtroom proceedings, such as arraignments and evidence display, became newsworthy through the immediacy of reportage. Every small detail was devoured by a public impatient for news about notorious bank robbers and murderers – some of whom, like John Dillinger, were elevated to the status of folk heroes. In other instances, such as the assassinations of Robert F. Kennedy and Lee Harvey Oswald, newspapers and television brought the drama and intensity of firsthand observation into people’s homes.

 

Boris Yaro/Los Angeles Times. 'The assassination of Robert F. Kennedy' 1968

 

Boris Yaro (American, born 1938)
LOS ANGELES. KENNEDY MOMENTS AFTER SHOOTING. Sen. Robert F. Kennedy Lies Gravely Wounded on the floor at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles shortly after midnight today, moments after he was shot during a celebration of his victory in yesterday’s California primary election
June 5, 1968
Gelatin silver print
17.2 x 21.1 cm (6 3/4 x 8 5/16 in.)
Twentieth-Century Photography Fund, 2010

 

 

June 5, 1968: “Presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy lies on the floor at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles moments after he was shot in the head. He had just finished his victory speech upon winning the California primary. Times photographer Boris Yaro was standing 3 feet from Kennedy when the shooting began. “The gunman started firing at point-blank range. Sen. Kennedy didn’t have a chance,” Yaro recounted in a June 6, 1968, story for The Times. The Democratic senator, 42, was alive for more than 24 hours and was declared dead on the morning of June 6. The shooter was later identified as Sirhan B. Sirhan, who was found guilty of Kennedy’s assassination on April 17, 1969. His motives remain a mystery and controversy to this day.”

1964 Pulitzer Prize, Photography, Robert Jackson, Dallas Times Herald November 22, 1963

 

Andy Warhol (American, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 1928 - 1987 New York) 'Electric Chair' 1971

 

Andy Warhol (American, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 1928 – 1987 New York)
Electric Chair
1971
Printer: Silkprint Kettner, Zurich
Publisher: Bruno Bischofberger
Portfolio of ten screenprints
35 1/2 x 48 inches (90.2 x 121.9 cm)
Gift of Robert Meltzer, 1972

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 - 1914) '[Album of Paris Crime Scenes]' 1901-8

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 - 1914) '[Album of Paris Crime Scenes]' 1901-8

 

Assassination of Monsieur V. Lecomte, 74 Rue des Martyrs, 1902 (and detail)

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 - 1914) '[Album of Paris Crime Scenes]' 1901-8

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 - 1914) '[Album of Paris Crime Scenes]' 1901-8

 

Assassination of Monsieur V. Lecomte, 74 Rue des Martyrs, 1902 (and detail)

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 - 1914) '[Album of Paris Crime Scenes]' 1901-8

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 - 1914) '[Album of Paris Crime Scenes]' 1901-8

 

Assassination of Monsieur V. Lecomte, 74 Rue des Martyrs, 1902 (and detail)

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 - 1914) '[Album of Paris Crime Scenes]' 1901-8

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 - 1914) '[Album of Paris Crime Scenes]' 1901-8

 

Assassination of Monsieur V. Lecomte, 74 Rue des Martyrs, 1902 (and detail)

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 - 1914) '[Album of Paris Crime Scenes]' 1901-8

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 - 1914) '[Album of Paris Crime Scenes]' 1901-8

 

Murder of Madame Veuve Bol, Projection on a Vertical Plane (and detail)

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 - 1914) '[Album of Paris Crime Scenes]' 1901-8

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 - 1914) '[Album of Paris Crime Scenes]' 1901-8

 

1st November 1902. Assassination of Mademoiselle Mercier, Rue de l’Yvette á Bouvry la Reine. Photograph of the corpse.

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 - 1914) '[Album of Paris Crime Scenes]' 1901-8

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 - 1914) '[Album of Paris Crime Scenes]' 1901-8

 

Place where the corpse was found (and detail)

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 - 1914) '[Album of Paris Crime Scenes]' 1901-8

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 - 1914) '[Album of Paris Crime Scenes]' 1901-8

 

House of the victim (and detail)

 

Attributed to Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 – 1914)
[Album of Paris Crime Scenes]
1901-8
Gelatin silver prints
Overall: 24.3 x 31cm (9 9/16 x 12 3/16in.)
Page: 23 x 29 cm (9 1/16 x 11 7/16 in.)
Gilman Collection, Purchase, The Howard Gilman Foundation Gift, 2001

 

 

Alphonse Bertillon, the chief of criminal identification for the Paris police department, developed the mug shot format and other photographic procedures used by police to register criminals. Although the images in this extraordinary album of forensic photographs were made by or under the direction of Bertillon, it was probably assembled by a private investigator or secretary who worked at the Paris prefecture. Photographs of the pale bodies of murder victims are assembled with views of the rooms where the murders took place, close-ups of objects that served as clues, and mug shots of criminals and suspects. Made as part of an archive rather than as art, these postmortem portraits, recorded in the deadpan style of a police report, nonetheless retain an unsettling potency.

 

Samuel G. Szabó (Hungarian, active America c. 1854 - 61) 'Rogues, a Study of Characters' c. 1860

Samuel G. Szabó (Hungarian, active America c. 1854 - 61) 'Rogues, a Study of Characters' c. 1860

Samuel G. Szabó (Hungarian, active America c. 1854 - 61) 'Rogues, a Study of Characters' c. 1860

Samuel G. Szabó (Hungarian, active America c. 1854 - 61) 'Rogues, a Study of Characters' c. 1860

Samuel G. Szabó (Hungarian, active America c. 1854 - 61) 'Rogues, a Study of Characters' c. 1860

 

Samuel G. Szabó (Hungarian, active America c. 1854 – 61)
Rogues, a Study of Characters
c. 1860
Salted paper prints from glass negatives
From 8.8 x 6.6 cm (3 7/16 x 2 5/8 in.) to 11.5 x 8.8 cm (4 1/2 x 3 7/16 in.)
Gilman Collection, Purchase, Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee Gift, 2005
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

 

Lifter, wife poisoner, forger, sneak thief; cracksman, pickpocket, burglar, highwayman; murderer, counterfeiter, abortionist – each found a place in this gallery of rogues. Photography was first put to service for the identification and apprehension of criminals in the late 1850s. In New York, for example, 450 photographs of known criminals could be viewed by the public in a real rogues’ gallery at police headquarters, the portraits arranged by category, such as “Leading pickpockets, who work one, two, or three together, and are mostly English.”

Little is known of Samuel G. Szabó, his methods or his intentions. He appears to have left his native Hungary in the early or mid-1850s by necessity, but the reason for his exile remains a mystery.

In the United States Szabó moved frequently. Between May 1857 and his return to Europe in July 1861 he traveled to New Orleans, Cincinnati, Chicago, Saint Louis, Philadelphia, and New York, settling for a brief period in Baltimore, where he was listed in the city directory as a daguerreotypist. His whereabouts when he made this album are unknown. One may speculate that Szabó made these portraits while working for, or with the cooperation of, the police, and some of the 218 prints in the album appear to be copy prints made from other photographic portraits.

But this is more than a collection of mug shots; it is a study of characters by a “photogr[aphic] artist,” as Szabó signed the title page of this album. Just as Mathew Brady believed that portraits of America’s great men and women held clues to the nobility of their character and could serve as moral and political exemplars to those who contemplated them, others attempted to discern in photographs such as Szabó’s physical characteristics of the criminal psyche. Yet, as in Hugh Diamond’s portraits of the insane (no. 30), the reading of individual portraits is not always self-evident. Would the serious young man in the overcoat and silk top hat appear roguish without the caption “John McNauth alias Keely alias little hucks / Pick Pocket” below his portrait?

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 - 1914) Tableau synoptic des traits physionomiques: pour servir a l'étude du "portrait parlé" c. 1909

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 - 1914) Tableau synoptic des traits physionomiques: pour servir a l'étude du "portrait parlé" c. 1909 (detail)

 

Eyebrows, eyelids, globes, orbits, wrinkles

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 - 1914) Tableau synoptic des traits physionomiques: pour servir a l'étude du "portrait parlé" c. 1909 (detail)

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 - 1914) Tableau synoptic des traits physionomiques: pour servir a l'étude du "portrait parlé" c. 1909 (detail)

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 – 1914)
Tableau synoptic des traits physionomiques: pour servir a l’étude du “portrait parlé” (and details)
c. 1909
Gelatin silver print
39.4 x 29.5 cm (15 1/2 x 11 5/8 in.)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Twentieth-Century Photography Fund, 2009

 

 

Nineteenth-century police headquarters were host to disorganized “rogues’ galleries” swollen with photographic portraits of criminals, which turned even the simplest of searches into a Sisyphean labor. As a response, police clerk Alphonse Bertillon introduced a rigorous system of classification, or signalment, to help organize archives, a process that included not only quantitative anthropometric measurements of the head, body, and extremities but also qualitative descriptions of the face. Photography’s potential for exactitude made it a crucial tool for Bertillon’s system, and his portrait parlé – the basis for today’s mugshot – posited a powerful analogy between a photographic likeness and the ink fingerprint.

Akin to a cheat-sheet for police clerks, this composite photograph illustrates how the mugshot could yield a series of classifications, dividing the male criminal’s face into discrete units of information. Such points of identification include the precise differentiation between left ear and right, the angle of inclination of the chin, and the pattern of the folds on the brow. Although intended merely as a filing aide, this image of the human face in all its striations of repetition and difference renders surveillance as a terrifying manifestation of the modern sublime.

.
“Bertillon’s other major legacy in the field of forensics was his invention of the mug shot. In the mid-nineteenth century, criminal photography focussed on identifying types of offenders; the exhibit’s earliest images are from an album of “rogues,” taken around 1860 in the United States by the photographer Samuel G. Szabó, who sought to distinguish the physiognomy of a counterfeiter from that of a “sneak thief,” a burglar, and a pickpocket. (Whatever revealing differences Szabó may have discerned, his subjects all look mad as hell to be stuck in his perp pictures.) Bertillon countered this hypothetical typology with empirical method, taking “anthropometric” measurements – determining the length of a convict’s middle finger, for example – as well as making elaborate verbal descriptions of a subject’s physical aspect, covering everything from his wrinkles to his eyelids, and two standardized photographs of his face, one from the front, one in profile.”

Alexandra Schwartz. “The Long Collusion of Photography and Crime,” on The New Yorker website April 9 2016 [Online] Cited 15/07/2016

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 - 1914) 'Véret. 0ctave-Jean. 19 ans, né à Paris XXe. Photographe. Anarchiste. 2/3/94.' 1894

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 – 1914)
Véret. 0ctave-Jean. 19 ans, né à Paris XXe. Photographe. Anarchiste. 2/3/94
1894
Albumen silver print from glass negative
10.5 x 7 x 0.5 cm (4 1/8 x 2 3/4 x 3/16 in.)
Gilman Collection, Museum Purchase, 2005

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 - 1914) 'Beaulieu. Henri, Félix, Camille. 23 ans, né le 30/11/70 à Paris Ve. Comptable. Anarchiste. 23/5/94.' 1894

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 – 1914)
Beaulieu. Henri, Félix, Camille. 23 ans, né le 30/11/70 à Paris Ve. Comptable. Anarchiste. 23/5/94
1894
Albumen silver print from glass negative
10.5 x 7 x 0.5 cm (4 1/8 x 2 3/4 x 3/16 in.)
Gilman Collection, Museum Purchase, 2005

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 - 1914) 'Soubrier. Annette (femme Chericotti). 28 ans, nŽe ˆ Paris Ille. Coutire. Anarchiste. 25/3/94' 1894

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 – 1914)
Soubrier. Annette (femme Chericotti). 28 ans, nŽe ˆ Paris Ille. Coutire. Anarchiste. 25/3/94
1894
Albumen silver print from glass negative
10.5 x 7 x 0.5 cm (4 1/8 x 2 3/4 x 3/16 in.)
Gilman Collection, Museum Purchase, 2005

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 - 1914) 'SchulŽ. Armand. 21 ans, nŽ le 28/2/73 ˆ Choisy-le-Roi. Comptable. Anarchiste. 2/7/94' 1894

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 – 1914)
SchulŽ. Armand. 21 ans, nŽ le 28/2/73 ˆ Choisy-le-Roi. Comptable. Anarchiste. 2/7/94
1894
Albumen silver print from glass negative
10.5 x 7 x 0.5 cm (4 1/8 x 2 3/4 x 3/16 in.)
Gilman Collection, Museum Purchase, 2005

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 - 1914) 'Roobin. Joseph. 40 ans, nŽ ˆ Bourgneuf (Loire-InfŽrieure). Terrassier. Anarchiste. 2/3/94' 1894

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 – 1914)
Roobin. Joseph. 40 ans, nŽ ˆ Bourgneuf (Loire-InfŽrieure). Terrassier. Anarchiste. 2/3/94
1894
Albumen silver print from glass negative
10.5 x 7 x 0.5 cm (4 1/8 x 2 3/4 x 3/16 in.)
Gilman Collection, Museum Purchase, 2005

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 - 1914) 'Robillard. Guillaume, Joseph. 24 ans, nŽ le 17/11/68 ˆVaucresson. Fondeur en cuivre. Anarchiste. 2/7/94' 1894

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 – 1914)
Robillard. Guillaume, Joseph. 24 ans, nŽ le 17/11/68 ˆ Vaucresson. Fondeur en cuivre. Anarchiste. 2/7/94
1894
Albumen silver print from glass negative
10.5 x 7 x 0.5 cm (4 1/8 x 2 3/4 x 3/16 in.)
Gilman Collection, Museum Purchase, 2005

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 - 1914) 'Ravachol. Franois Claudius Kœnigstein. 33 ans, nŽ ˆ St-Chamond (Loire). CondamnŽ le 27/4/92' 1892

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 – 1914)
Ravachol. Franois Claudius Kœnigstein. 33 ans, nŽ ˆ St-Chamond (Loire). CondamnŽ le 27/4/92
1892
Albumen silver print from glass negative
10.5 x 7 x 0.5 cm (4 1/8 x 2 3/4 x 3/16 in.)
Gilman Collection, Museum Purchase, 2005

 

Condemned 27/04/1892

 

 

“François Claudius Koenigstein, known as Ravachol (1859-1892), was a French anarchist. He was born on 14 October 1859, at Saint-Chamond, Loire and died guillotined on 11 July 1892, at Montbrison.

François Koenigstein was born in Saint-Chamond, Loire as the eldest child of a Dutch father (Jean Adam Koenigstein) and a French mother (Marie Ravachol). As an adult, he adopted his mother’s maiden name as his surname, following years of struggle after his father abandoned the family when François was only 8 years old. From that time on he had to support his mother, sister, and brother; he also looked after his nephew. He eventually found work as a dyer’s assistant, a job which he later lost. He was very poor throughout his life. For additional income he played accordion at society balls on Sundays at Saint-Étienne.

Ravachol became politically active. He joined the anarchists as well as groups organizing to improve working conditions. Labor unrest resulted in fierce reprisals by police. On 1 May 1891, at Fourmies, a workers demonstration took place for the eight-hour day; confrontations with the police followed. The Police opened fire on the crowd, resulting in nine deaths amongst the demonstrators. The same day, at Clichy, serious incidents erupted in a procession in which anarchists were taking part. Three men were arrested and taken to the commissariat of police. There they were interrogated (and brutalised with beatings, resulting in injuries). A trial (the Clichy Affair (fr)) ensued, in which two of the three anarchists were sentenced to prison terms (despite their abuse in jail.

In addition to these events, authorities kept up repression of the communards, which had continued from the time of the insurrection of the Paris Commune of 1871. Ravachol was aroused to take action in 1892 against members of the judiciary. He placed bombs in the living quarters of the Advocate General, Léon Bulot (executive of the Public Ministry), and Edmond Benoît, the councillor who had presided over the Assises Court during the Clichy Affair.

An informant told of his actions, and Ravachol was arrested on 30 March 1892 for his bombings at the Restaurant Véry. The day before the trial, anarchists bombed the restaurant where the informant worked. Ravachol was tried at the Assises Court of Seine on 26 April. He was convicted and condemned to prison for life. On 23 June, Ravachol was condemned to death in a second trial at the Assises Court of Loire for three murders. His participation in two of them is disputed (he confessed only to the murder of the hermit of Montbrison, claiming it was due to his own poverty). On 11 July 1892, Ravachol was publicly guillotined.” (Text from the Wikipedia website)

 

Cover page of "Le Petit Journal" illustrating the arrest of French anarchist and assassin Ravachol

 

Cover page of “Le Petit Journal” illustrating the arrest of French anarchist and assassin Ravachol (1859-1892)
Bibliothèque nationale de France

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 - 1914) 'Rampin. Pierre. 3/7/94' 1894

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 – 1914)
Rampin. Pierre. 3/7/94
1894
Albumen silver print from glass negative
10.5 x 7 x 0.5 cm (4 1/8 x 2 3/4 x 3/16 in.)
Gilman Collection, Museum Purchase, 2005

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 - 1914) 'Peticolin. Henri. 23 ans, nŽ le 8/6/71 ˆGoersdorf (Bas-Rhin). Vernisseur. Anarchiste. 2/7/94' 1894

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 - 1914) 'Peticolin. Henri. 23 ans, nŽ le 8/6/71 ˆGoersdorf (Bas-Rhin). Vernisseur. Anarchiste. 2/7/94' 1894 (verso)

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 – 1914)
Peticolin. Henri. 23 ans, nŽ le 8/6/71 ˆ Goersdorf (Bas-Rhin). Vernisseur. Anarchiste. 2/7/94
1894
Albumen silver print from glass negative
10.5 x 7 x 0.5 cm (4 1/8 x 2 3/4 x 3/16 in.)
Gilman Collection, Museum Purchase, 2005

 

Varnisher. Anarchist.

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 - 1914) 'Olguéni Gustave. 24 ans, né à Sala (Suède) le 24-5-69. Artiste-peintre. Anarchiste. 14-3-94' 1894

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 – 1914)
Olguéni Gustave. 24 ans, né à Sala (Suède) le 24-5-69. Artiste-peintre. Anarchiste. 14-3-94
1894
Albumen silver print from glass negative
10.5 x 7 x 0.5 cm (4 1/8 x 2 3/4 x 3/16 in.)
Gilman Collection, Museum Purchase, 2005

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 - 1914) 'Adnet. Clotilde. 19 ans, née en décembre 74 à Argentant (Orne). Brodeuse. Anarchiste. Fichée le 7/1/94' 1894

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 – 1914)
Adnet. Clotilde. 19 ans, née en décembre 74 à Argentant (Orne). Brodeuse. Anarchiste. Fichée le 7/1/94
1894
Albumen silver print from glass negative
10.5 x 7 x 0.5 cm (4 1/8 x 2 3/4 x 3/16 in.)
Gilman Collection, Museum Purchase, 2005

 

Embroiderer. Anarchist.

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 - 1914) 'Nic. Celestin. 20 ans, nŽ ˆ Conflans-St-Honorine (Seine & Oise). Emballeur. 26/2/94' 1894

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 – 1914)
Nic. Celestin. 20 ans, nŽ ˆ Conflans-St-Honorine (Seine & Oise). Emballeur. 26/2/94
1894
Albumen silver print from glass negative
10.5 x 7 x 0.5 cm (4 1/8 x 2 3/4 x 3/16 in.)
Gilman Collection, Museum Purchase, 2005

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 - 1914) 'Mocquet. Georges, Gustave. 17 ans, nŽ le 17/5/76 ˆ Paris IXe. Tapissier. Anarchiste. 6/1/94' 1894

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 – 1914)
Mocquet. Georges, Gustave. 17 ans, nŽ le 17/5/76 ˆ Paris IXe. Tapissier. Anarchiste. 6/1/94
1894
Albumen silver print from glass negative
10.5 x 7 x 0.5 cm (4 1/8 x 2 3/4 x 3/16 in.)
Gilman Collection, Museum Purchase, 2005

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 - 1914) 'Feneon. Felix. Clerk of the Galerie Berheim Jeune' 1894-85

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 – 1914)
Feneon. Felix. Clerk of the Galerie Berheim Jeune
1894-85
Albumen silver print from glass negative
10.5 x 7 x 0.5 cm (4 1/8 x 2 3/4 x 3/16 in.)
Gilman Collection, Museum Purchase, 2005

 

 

Félix Fénéon (22 June 1861, Turin, Italy – 29 February 1944, Châtenay-Malabry) was a Parisian anarchist and art critic during the late 19th century. He coined the term “Neo-Impressionism” in 1886 to identify a group of artists led by Georges Seurat, and ardently promoted them.

Felix Fénéon was a prominent literary stylist, art critic, and anarchist born in Turin, Italy in 1861. He was later raised in Burgundy, presumably because his father was a travelling salesman. After placing first in the competitive exams for jobs, Fénéon moved to Paris to work for the War Office where he achieved the rank of chief clerk. During his time in the war office he edited many works, including those of Rimbaud and Lautréamont, as well as helped to advance the fledgling pointillist movement under Georges Seurat. He was also a regular at Mallarmé’s salons on Tuesday evenings as well as active in anarchist circles.

Fénéon, ironically, worked 13 years at the War Office while remaining heavily active in supporting anarchist circles and movements. In March 1892 French police talked about Fénéon as an ‘active Anarchist’, and they had him shadowed. In 1894 Fénéon was arrested on suspicion of conspiracy because of an anarchist bombing of the Foyot restaurant, a popular haunt of politicians. He was also suspected of connection with the assassination of the French President, Sadi Carnot, by an Italian anarchist. He and twenty-nine others were arrested under charges of conspiracy in what became known as the “Trial of Thirty”. Fénéon was acquitted with many of the original thirty. However, the trial was a high point in publicity for Fénéon, normally behind the scenes, as he championed his wit to the amusement of the jury. Of the courtroom scene, Julian Barnes writes, “When the presiding judge put it to him that he had been spotted talking to a known anarchist behind a gas lamp, he replied coolly: Can you tell me, Monsieur le Président, which side of a gas lamp is its behind?”

After the trial, Fénéon became even more elusive. In 1890, the Neo-Impressionist Paul Signac asked to produce a portrait of the lauded critic. Fénéon refused several times before agreeing, on the condition that Signac produced a full face effigy. Signac naturally refused, painting instead a famous profile of Fénéon with his characteristic goatee, a picture that largely became a symbol of the movement, spawning many variations. Fénéon, though displeased, hung the picture on his wall until Signac’s death 45 years later. Aside from Novels in Three Lines that first appeared as clippings in the Parisian Le Matins in 1906 and later as a collection, only because his mistress Camille Pateel had collected them in an album, Fénéon published only a 43-page monograph in Les Impressionists (1886). When asked to produce Les Nouvelles en Trois Lignes as a collection, Fénéon famously replied with an angry “I aspire only to silence”. As Luc Sante points out, Fénéon, one might say, is invisibly famous, having affected so much without being recognizable to many.” (Text from the Wikipedia website)

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 - 1914) 'Dupuis. Augustin. 53 ans, nŽ le 24/6/41 ˆ Dourdan (Seine &Oise). Charron, forgeron. Anarchiste. 3/7/94' 1894

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 – 1914)
Dupuis. Augustin. 53 ans, nŽ le 24/6/41 ˆ Dourdan (Seine &Oise). Charron, forgeron. Anarchiste. 3/7/94
1894
Albumen silver print from glass negative
10.5 x 7 x 0.5 cm (4 1/8 x 2 3/4 x 3/16 in.)
Gilman Collection, Museum Purchase, 2005

 

Wheelwright, blacksmith. Anarchist.

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 - 1914) 'CharriŽ. Cyprien. 26 ans, nŽ le 7/10/67 ˆ Paris XVIlle. Imprimeur. Anarchiste 2/7/94' 1894

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 – 1914)
CharriŽ. Cyprien. 26 ans, nŽ le 7/10/67 ˆ Paris XVIlle. Imprimeur. Anarchiste 2/7/94
1894
Albumen silver print from glass negative
10.5 x 7 x 0.5 cm (4 1/8 x 2 3/4 x 3/16 in.)
Gilman Collection, Museum Purchase, 2005

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 - 1914) 'Bellemans. Eugène (ou Michel). 23 ans, né à Gand (Belgique). Tailleur d'habits. Anarchiste. 9/3/94' 1894

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 – 1914)
Bellemans. Eugène (ou Michel). 23 ans, né à Gand (Belgique). Tailleur d’habits. Anarchiste. 9/3/94
1894
Albumen silver print from glass negative
10.5 x 7 x 0.5 cm (4 1/8 x 2 3/4 x 3/16 in.)
Gilman Collection, Museum Purchase, 2005

 

 

Born into a distinguished family of scientists and statisticians, Bertillon began his career as a clerk in the Identification Bureau of the Paris Prefecture of Police in 1879. Tasked with maintaining reliable police records of offenders, he developed the first modern system of criminal identification. The system, which became known as Bertillonage, had three components: anthropometric measurement, precise verbal description of the prisoner’s physical characteristics, and standardized photographs of the face.

In the early 1890s Paris was subject to a wave of bombings and assassination attempts carried out by anarchist proponents of “propaganda of the deed.” One of Bertillon’s greatest successes came in March 1892, when his system of criminal identification led to the arrest of an anarchist bomber and career criminal who went by the name Ravachol. The publicity surrounding the case earned Bertillon the Legion of Honor and encouraged police departments around the world to adopt his anthropometric system.

 

Unknown (American) '[Broadside for the Capture of John Wilkes Booth, John Surratt, and David Herold]' 1865

 

Unknown (American)
[Broadside for the Capture of John Wilkes Booth, John Surratt, and David Herold]
Artist: Alexander Gardner (American, Glasgow, Scotland 1821 – 1882 Washington, D.C.)
Photography Studio: Silsbee, Case & Company (American, active Boston)
Photography Studio: Unknown
April 20, 1865
Ink on paper with three albumen silver prints from glass negatives
Sheet: 60.5 x 31.3 cm (23 13/16 x 12 5/16 in.) Each photograph: 8.6 x 5.4 cm (3 3/8 x 2 1/8 in.)
Gilman Collection, Purchase, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 2005

 

 

On the night of April 14, 1865, just five days after Lee’s surrender to Grant at Appomattox, John Wilkes Booth shot Lincoln at the Ford Theatre in Washington, D.C. Within twenty-four hours, Secret Service director Colonel Lafayette Baker had already acquired photographs of Booth and two of his accomplices. Booth’s photograph was secured by a standard police search of the actor’s room at the National Hotel; a photograph of John Surratt, a suspect in the plot to kill Secretary of State William Seward, was obtained from his mother, Mary (soon to be indicted as a fellow conspirator), and David Herold’s photograph was found in a search of his mother’s carte-de-visite album. The three photographs were taken to Alexander Gardner’s studio for immediate reproduction. This bill was issued on April 20, the first such broadside in America illustrated with photographs tipped onto the sheet.

The descriptions of the alleged conspirators combined with their photographic portraits proved invaluable to the militia. Six days after the poster was released Booth and Herold were recognized by a division of the 16th New York Cavalry. The commanding officer, Lieutenant Edward Doherty, demanded their unconditional surrender when he cornered the two men in a barn near Port Royal, Virginia. Herold complied; Booth refused. Two Secret Service detectives accompanying the cavalry, then set fire to the barn. Booth was shot as he attempted to escape; he died three hours later. After a military trial Herold was hanged on July 7 at the Old Arsenal Prison in Washington, D.C.

Surratt escaped to England via Canada, eventually settling in Rome. Two years later a former schoolmate from Maryland recognized Surratt, then a member of the Papal Guard, and he was returned to Washington to stand trial. In September 1868 the charges against him were nol-prossed after the trial ended in a hung jury. Surratt retired to Maryland, worked as a clerk, and lived until 1916.

 

 

Alexander Gardner (American, Glasgow, Scotland 1821 - 1882 Washington, D.C.) 'Lewis Powell [alias Lewis Payne]' April 27, 1865

 

Alexander Gardner (American, Glasgow, Scotland 1821 – 1882 Washington, D.C.)
Lewis Powell [alias Lewis Payne]
April 27, 1865
Albumen silver print from glass negative
22.4 × 17.4 cm (8 13/16 × 6 7/8 in.)
Gilman Collection, Purchase, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 2005

 

 

Alexander Gardner’s 1865 portrait of Lewis Powell, a conspirator with John Wilkes Booth. At roughly the same time that John Wilkes Booth shot President Lincoln, Lewis Paine attempted unsuccessfully to murder Secretary of State William Seward. The son of a Baptist minister from Alabama, Paine (alias Wood, alias Hall, alias Powell) was one of at least five conspirators who planned with Booth the simultaneous assassinations of Lincoln, Vice President Andrew Johnson, and Seward. A tall, powerful man, Paine broke into the secretary’s house, struck his son Frederick with the butt of his jammed pistol, brutally stabbed the bedridden politician, and then escaped after stabbing Seward’s other son, Augustus.

Four days later, Paine was caught in a sophisticated police dragnet and arrested at the H Street boarding house of fellow conspirator Mary Surratt. Detained aboard two iron-clad monitors docked together on the Potomac, Paine and seven other presumed conspirators were photographed by Alexander Gardner on April 27. Gardner made full-length, profile, and full-face portraits of each of the men, presaging the pictorial formula later adopted by law-enforcement photographers. Of the ten known photographs of Paine, six show him against a canvas awning on the monitor’s deck, the others against the dented gun turret. In this portrait, Paine, towering more than a head above the deck officer, appears menacingly free of handcuffs. He was twenty years old.

 

Alexander Gardner (American, Glasgow, Scotland 1821 - 1882 Washington, D.C.) 'Execution of the Conspirators' July 7, 1865

 

Alexander Gardner (American, Glasgow, Scotland 1821 – 1882 Washington, D.C.)
Execution of the Conspirators
July 7, 1865
Albumen silver print from glass negative
16.8 x 24.2 cm (6 5/8 x 9 1/2 in.)
Gilman Collection, Purchase, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 2005

 

 

Alexander Gardner’s intimate involvement in the events following President Lincoln’s assassination would have challenged even the most experienced twentieth-century photojournalist. In just short of four months, Gardner documented in hundreds of portraits and views one of the most complex national news stories in American history. The U.S. Secret Service provided Gardner unlimited access to individuals and places unavailable to any other photographer. Free to retain all but one of his negatives-a portrait of Booth’s corpse-Gardner attempted to sell carte-de-visite and large-format prints of the whole picture story. America, still wounded from the four-year war, was less than interested.

The photographs of the execution of Mary Surratt, Lewis Paine, David Herold, and George Atzerodt on July 7, 1865, were, however, highly sought after by early collectors of Civil War ephemera beginning in the 1880s. This photograph shows the final preparations on the scaffolding in the yard of the Old Arsenal Prison. The day was extremely hot and a parasol shades Mary Surratt, seated at the far left of the stage. (She would become the first woman in America to be hanged.) Two soldiers stationed beneath the stage grasp the narrow beams that hold up the gallows trapdoors. The soldier on the left would later admit he had just vomited, from heat and tension. Only one noose is visible, slightly to the left of Surratt; the other three nooses moved during the exposure and are registered by the camera only as faint blurs. Members of the clergy crowd the stage and provide final counsel to the conspirators. A private audience of invited guests stands at the lower left. Minutes after Gardner’s exposure, the conspirators were tied and blindfolded and the order was given to knock out the support beams.

 

Unknown. 'Policeman Posing with Four "Collared" Thugs' c. 1875

 

Unknown
Policeman Posing with Four “Collared” Thugs
c. 1875
Tintype
Image: 4 5/8 × 3 9/16 in. (11.7 × 9 cm), visible Plate: 5 7/16 × 4 1/16 in. (13.8 × 10.3 cm), approx.
Gift of Stanley B. Burns, MD and The Burns Archive, in honor of Elizabeth A. Burns, 2016

 

This rare narrative tintype of a policeman posing with four criminals handcuffed to one another may be viewed as an occupational portrait of sorts. The officer’s police cap and gleaming badge indicate his profession, while his pose and central placement emphasize his authority.

 

Unknown. '[Five Members of the Wild Bunch]' c. 1892

 

Unknown
[Five Members of the Wild Bunch]
c. 1892
Tintype
Image: 8.4 x 6.2 cm (3 5/16 x 2 7/16 in.)
Gilman Collection, Gift of The Howard Gilman Foundation, 2005

 

 

The Wild Bunch was the largest and most notorious band of outlaws in the American West. Led by two gunmen better known by their aliases, Butch Cassidy (Robert LeRoy Parker) and Kid Curry (Harvey Logan), the Wild Bunch was an informal trust of thieves and rustlers that preyed upon stagecoaches, small banks, and especially railroads from the late 1880s to the first decade of the twentieth century.

This crudely constructed tintype portrait of five members of the gang dressed in bowler hats and city clothes shows, clockwise, from the top left, Kid Curry, Bill McCarty, Bill (Tod) Carver, Ben Kilpatrick, and Tom O’Day. Without their six shooters and cowboy hats the outlaws appear quite civilized and could easily be mistaken for the sheriffs and Pinkerton agents who pursued them in a “Wild West” already much tamed by the probable date of this photograph. Gone was the open range – instead, homesteads and farms dotted the landscape and barbed-wire fences frustrated the cattleman’s drive to market. Gone too was the anonymity associated with distance, as the camera and the telegraph conspired to identify criminals. Bank and train robbery were still lucrative, but the outlaw’s chances for escape gradually shifted in favor of the sheriff’s chances for arrest and conviction.

By 1903 the Wild Bunch had disbanded. A few members of the gang followed Butch Cassidy to South America, while the majority remained in the West, trying to avoid capture. McCarty was shot dead in 1893, in a street in Delta, Colorado, after a bank robbery; Carver died in prison; Kilpatrick was killed during a train robbery in 1912; Tom O’Day was captured by a Casper, Wyoming, sheriff in 1903; and Kid Curry died either by his own hand in Parachute, Colorado, in 1904, or, as legend has it, lived until he was killed by a wild mule in South America in 1909. The photograph comes from the collection of Camillus S. Fly, a pioneer photographer in Tombstone, Arizona, in the 1880s and sheriff of Cochise County in the 1890s.

 

Tom Howard (American, 1894 - 1961) '[Electrocution of Ruth Snyder, Sing Sing Prison, Ossining, New York]' 1928

 

Tom Howard (American, 1894 – 1961)
[Electrocution of Ruth Snyder, Sing Sing Prison, Ossining, New York]
1928
Gelatin silver print
24 x 19.3 cm (9 7/16 x 7 5/8 in.)
Twentieth-Century Photography Fund, 2008
© The New York Daily News Archive / Getty Images

 

 

In spite of the universal ban on cameras in American death chambers, news editors have long recognized the public’s hunger for eyewitness images of high-profile executions. In January 1928 Tom Howard made tabloid history when he photographed, using a miniature camera strapped to his ankle, the electrocution of the convicted murderer Ruth Snyder at Sing Sing prison in Ossining, New York. The sensational picture ran under banner headlines on the front page of the New York Daily News two days in a row.

.
“In 1925, Snyder, a housewife from Queens Village, Queens, New York City, began an affair with Henry Judd Gray, a married corset salesman. She then began to plan the murder of her husband, enlisting the help of her new lover, though he appeared to be very reluctant. Her distaste for her husband apparently began when he insisted on hanging a picture of his late fiancée, Jessie Guishard, on the wall of their first home, and named his boat after her. Guishard, whom Albert described to Ruth as “the finest woman I have ever met”, had been dead for 10 years.

Ruth Snyder first persuaded her husband to purchase insurance, with the assistance of an insurance agent (who was subsequently fired and sent to prison for forgery) “signed” a $48,000 life insurance policy that paid extra (“double indemnity”) if an unexpected act of violence killed the victim. According to Henry Judd Gray, Ruth had made at least seven attempts to kill her husband, all of which he survived. On March 20, 1927, the couple garrotted Albert Snyder and stuffed his nose full of chloroform-soaked rags, then staged his death as part of a burglary. Detectives at the scene noted that the burglar left little evidence of breaking into the house; moreover, that the behavior of Mrs. Snyder was inconsistent with her story of a terrorized wife witnessing her husband being killed.

Then the police found the property Ruth claimed had been stolen. It was still in the house, but hidden. A breakthrough came when a detective found a paper with the letters “J.G.” on it (it was a memento Albert Snyder had kept from former love Jessie Guishard), and asked Ruth about it. A flustered Ruth’s mind immediately turned to her lover, whose initials were also “J.G.,” and she asked the detective what Gray had to do with this. It was the first time Gray had been mentioned, and the police were instantly suspicious. Gray was found upstate, in Syracuse. He claimed he had been there all night, but eventually it turned out a friend of his had created an alibi, setting up Gray’s room at a hotel. Gray proved far more forthcoming than Ruth about his actions. He was caught and returned to Jamaica, Queens and charged along with Ruth Snyder. Dorothy Parker told Oscar Levant that Gray tried to escape the police by taking a taxi from Long Island to Manhattan, New York, which Levant noted was “quite a long trip.” According to Parker, in order “not to attract attention, he gave the driver a ten-cent tip.” …

Snyder became the first woman executed in Sing Sing since 1899. She went to the electric chair only moments before her former lover. Her execution (by “State Electrician” Robert G. Elliott) was caught on film, by a photograph of her as the electricity was running through her body, with the aid of a miniature plate camera custom-strapped to the ankle of Tom Howard, a Chicago Tribune photographer working in cooperation with the Tribune-owned New York Daily News. Howard’s camera was owned for a while by inventor Miller Reese Hutchison, then later became part of the collections of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.” (Text from the Wikipedia website)

 

Unknown (French) Publisher: Le Petit Parisien (French, active 1876–1944) 'Marius Bourotte' 1929

 

Unknown (French)
Publisher: Le Petit Parisien (French, active 1876–1944)
Marius Bourotte
1929
Gelatin silver print with applied color
11.6 x 16.2 cm. (4 9/16 x 6 3/8 in.)
Purchase, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 1996

 

These photographs of thieves and assassins were heavily retouched with ink and gouache to facilitate their reproduction in illustrated newspapers and magazines. Although they were not conceived as typological studies, the cropping and retouching deliberately intensified their sinister aspect, producing caricatures of criminality that satisfied the sensationalism of the picture press.

 

Unknown (American) '[Automobile Murder Scene]' c. 1935

 

Unknown (American)
[Automobile Murder Scene]
c. 1935
Gelatin silver print
24.3 x 20.1 cm (9 9/16 x 7 15/16 in.)
Twentieth-Century Photography Fund, 2008

 

 

This picture is a master class in the aesthetics of the crime photograph. As the writer Luc Sante has noted, photography stops time, while crime photography shows the stopped time of an individual life cut short. The anonymous cameraman (whose shadow can be seen in the image) may have worked for the police but was more likely a newspaper photographer. His editors must have considered this an absolute bull’s-eye combination of titillation, voyeurism, and fig-leaf moralizing that lets readers have their cake and eat it too. Most importantly, the stopped time of the crime photograph imparts a heightened significance to all the details within the frame, which could either be clues or random accident.

 

Weegee (American, born Ukraine (Austria), Złoczów (Zolochiv) 1899 - 1968 New York) 'Human Head Cake Box Murder' c. 1940

 

Weegee (American, born Ukraine (Austria), Złoczów (Zolochiv) 1899 – 1968 New York)
Human Head Cake Box Murder
c. 1940
Gelatin silver print
33.6 x 26.9 cm (13 1/4 x 10 9/16 in.)
Ford Motor Company Collection, Gift of Ford Motor Company and John C. Waddell, 1987
© Weegee / International Center of Photography

 

 

It is hard to decide which of the several mysteries contained in this macabre photograph is the most bizarre: the murder to which the title alludes, the headless bodies standing flat-footedly around a bodyless head, the “scriptboy” who enters at upper left, how the police photographer can be both rooted to the spot and levitating above it, why he wears his hat as he works, or where Weegee is standing.

 

John Gutmann (American (born Germany), Breslau 1905 - 1998 San Francisco) "X Marks the Spot Where Ralph Will Die" 1938

 

John Gutmann (American (born Germany), Breslau 1905 – 1998 San Francisco)
“X Marks the Spot Where Ralph Will Die”
1938
Gelatin silver print
23.4 x 17.8 cm (9 3/16 x 7 in.)
Ford Motor Company Collection, Gift of Ford Motor Company and John C. Waddell, 1987
© 1998 Center for Creative Photography, Arizona Board of Regents

 

 

Trained as a painter, Gutmann fled Germany for America in 1933. In need of money, the artist began photographing across the country as a foreign correspondent for the tremendously popular picture magazines of his homeland, which had an insatiable appetite for all things American. What began as an assignment in exile – travelling from New York, Chicago, and Detroit to New Orleans and San Francisco – became a remarkable lifelong career in a new medium and country.

One of the earliest and most inventive practitioners of street photography, Gutmann was one of the great poets and chroniclers of a particularly American kind of city life – the endless supply of characters and spontaneous dramas set against a backdrop of skyscrapers, signs, and graffiti.

 

 

Weegee (American, born Ukraine (Austria), Złoczów (Zolochiv) 1899 - 1968 New York) '[Outline of a Murder Victim]' 1942

 

Weegee (American, born Ukraine (Austria), Złoczów (Zolochiv) 1899 – 1968 New York)
[Outline of a Murder Victim]
1942
Gelatin silver print
33.9 x 27.4 cm. (13 3/6 x 10 13/16 in.)
Gift of Bruce A. Kirstein, in memory of Marc S. Kirstein, 1978
© Weegee / International Center of Photography

 

 

Working as a freelance press photographer in New York City during the mid-1930s and 1940s, Weegee achieved notoriety through sensational photographs of a crime-ridden metropolis. Although his nickname derived from an earlier job as a “squeegee boy” drying photographic prints in a professional darkroom, through brazen self-styling he designated himself a human Ouija board, who always seemed to know where the next big scoop would be. In fact, he lived across the street from police headquarters and used a department-issued radio. Here, Weegee distills the genre of the crime scene photograph into a minimalist trace: the camera’s flashbulb illuminates a hastily drawn chalk outline bearing the stark label “HEAD.”

 

Weegee (Arthur Fellig) 'Man Escorting Frank Pape, Arrested for Strangling Boy to Death, New York. November 10, 1944' 1944

 

Weegee (Arthur Fellig)
Man Escorting Frank Pape, Arrested for Strangling Boy to Death, New York. November 10, 1944
1944
Gelatin silver print
9 1⁄2 × 7 9/16″ (24.1 × 19.2 cm)
International Center of Photography. Bequest of Wilma Wilcox
© 2014 Weegee/ International Center of Photography/Getty Images

PHOTOGRAPH NOT IN EXHIBITION.
Taken prior to the famous image by Weggee below.

 

Weegee (American, born Ukraine (Austria), Złoczów (Zolochiv) 1899 - 1968 New York) 'Frank Pape, Arrested for Homicide' 1944

 

Weegee (American, born Ukraine (Austria), Złoczów (Zolochiv) 1899 – 1968 New York)
Frank Pape, Arrested for Homicide
1944
Gelatin silver print
33.6 x 26.4 cm (13 1/4 x 10 3/8 in.)
Anonymous Gift, 2005

 

 

“For Weegee… a photographic print was usually nothing more than a by-product. Weegee’s prints served as the matrices from which halftone and gravure printing plates were made (by others) for reproduction in magazines, books, and newspapers. Weegee intended these mass-produced multiples, and not the photographic prints themselves, to be the final forms of his imagery… He did not expect or intend his work to be experienced in the form of photographic prints.”

A. D. Coleman, “Weegee as Printmaker: An Anomaly in the Marketplace,” in Tarnished Silver: After the Photo Boom. New York: Midmarch, 1996, p. 28. (Emphasis added.) quoted in Jason E. Hill.

 

The subject of this photograph, a sixteen-year-old boy, confessed to tying up and strangling four-year-old William Drach in the Bronx on October 29, 1944, allegedly mimicking what he had seen in a movie. Here, Weegee adapts the traditional tropes of portraiture, in which the sitter’s hands and facial features are of the utmost importance, to present a caged criminal still armed with his weapons. Exploiting the cramped quarters of the police van, Weegee frames the boy’s placid face within the crisscross of the chain-linked fence. The boy’s hands – the presumed tools of his crime – are eerily dismembered from his body.

“On November 9, 1944, the American photographer Weegee made three exposures of Frank Pape, moments after the sixteen year old was arraigned on homicide charges for the accidental strangling death of a four-year-old neighbor and as he was escorted into a police wagon outside the Manhattan Police Headquarters, on Centre Market Place, en route to the 161st Street courthouse in the Bronx.1 Of these, the third expo- sure, which pictures the young Pape through the luminously articulated mesh of that police wagon’s grated rear window and is the basis for Frank Pape, Arrested for Homicide, November 10, 1944 in the Thomas Walther Collection, now stands among the photographer’s best-known and most widely collected and reproduced works.”

For more on the creation and dissemination of this print, see Jason E. Hill, “In the Police Wagon, in the Press, and in The Museum of Modern Art (A Note on Weegee’s Frank Pape, Arrested for Homicide, November 10, 1944)”.

The original negative was horizontal and was cropped in various proportions, photographs taken from the above article by Jason E. Hill:

 

Weegee (Arthur Fellig) 'Frank Pape, Arrested for Strangling Boy to Death, New York' 1944

 

Weegee (Arthur Fellig)
Frank Pape, Arrested for Strangling Boy to Death, New York
1944
Photographic negative (digitally scanned and inverted)
4 x 5″ (10.2 x 12.7 cm)
International Center of Photography
© 2014 Weegee/International Center of Photography/Getty Images

PHOTOGRAPH NOT IN EXHIBITION

 

Weegee (Arthur Fellig) 'Frank Pape, Arrested for Strangling Boy to Death, New York' 1944 indicating cropping variants

 

This print, made by Sid Kaplan in 1983, shows the entire view of Weegee’s original negative for the third exposure he took of Frank Pape in November 1944. Colored frames indicate the cropping of prints, now in various collections, derived from the negative: Sid Kaplan’s portfolio of Weegee’s prints, International Center of Photography, New York (red); Frank Pape, Arrested for Homicide, J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles (blue); Sixteen-Year-Old Boy Who Strangled a Four-Year-Old Child to Death, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (dark green); Frank Pape, Arrested for Homicide, November 10, 1944, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. (brown); Frank Pape, Arrested for Homicide, November 10, 1944, The Museum of Modern Art, New York (orange); Frank Pape, Arrested for Strangling Boy to Death, New York, International Center of Photography (yellow); the image as it was first published in PM (white); the image as it appeared in Weegee’s 1945 book, Naked City (light green).

 

William Klein. 'Gun 1, New York' 1955

 

William Klein (American, born New York, 1928)
Gun 1, New York
1954, printed 1986
Gelatin silver print
45.4 x 33.3 cm (17 7/8 x 13 1/8 in.)
Gift of the artist, in honor of his mother, Mrs. Helen Klein, 1987

 

 

Upon his return home in the late 1940s after eight years abroad in the army, Klein found his native New York City familiar but strange. Commissioned by Vogue to create a photographic book about the city, Klein recorded its vibrancy and grittiness, producing an uncompromising portrait that the magazine ultimately rejected. He subsequently took his photographs to Paris and published them under the title Life is Good & Good for You in New York. For this photograph, Klein asked two boys on Upper Broadway to pose. One pointed a gun at the camera, his face erupting with rage, mimicking the stereotypical poses of criminals in our image-saturated society.

 

United Press International (American) Person in Photograph: Patricia Hearst (American, born 1954) 'SAN FRANCISCO. Fugitive newspaper heiress Patricia Hearst and three other members of the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA) were reported captured in the Mission District here 9/18, bringing to an end one of the most bizarre criminal cases in U.S. History. In this photo released by the FBI 4/15/74, a girl resembling Miss Hearst is shown with a weapon in hand during a robbery of the Hibernia Bank' 1974

 

United Press International (American)
Person in Photograph: Patricia Hearst (American, born 1954)
SAN FRANCISCO. Fugitive newspaper heiress Patricia Hearst and three other members of the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA) were reported captured in the Mission District here 9/18, bringing to an end one of the most bizarre criminal cases in U.S. History. In this photo released by the FBI 4/15/74, a girl resembling Miss Hearst is shown with a weapon in hand during a robbery of the Hibernia Bank
1974
Gelatin silver print
22.4 x 17.5 cm (8 13/16 x 6 7/8 in.)
Gift of Alan L. Paris, 2011

 

 

The newspaper heiress Patricia Hearst in a 1974 shot from a bank surveillance camera.

The kidnapping of newspaper heiress Patty Hearst by the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA) was one of the most sensational news stories of the twentieth century. As part of its mission to dismantle the U.S. government and its capitalist values, the SLA abducted Hearst, an act that catapulted the terrorist group onto an international stage. A few months later, the SLA released tapes of Hearst declaring that she had joined their crusade, and within weeks she was photographed participating in a San Francisco bank robbery. The bank’s surveillance camera captured the photographs, vividly demonstrating the power of the medium to render a dramatic image of an event, even without a person behind the lens.

 

Larry Clark (American, born 1943) 'Armed Robbers, Oklahoma City' 1975, printed 1981

 

Larry Clark (American, born 1943)
Armed Robbers, Oklahoma City
1975, printed 1981
Gelatin silver print
30.5 x 20.2 cm. (12 x 7 15/16 in.)
Purchase, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 1994
© Larry Clark

 

 

A child of Eisenhower’s straitlaced and conformist 1950s America, Clark saw the camera as a way to “turn back the years” and photograph a younger crowd doing the kinds of things he either did or wanted to have done when he himself was a teenager – shooting drugs, shacking up with prostitutes, and committing all manner of crimes. Because of the nature of who and what he was photographing, almost all of Clark’s work from this period would become memorial in nature. This double portrait makes manifest the dangerous allure that is often attached to portrayals of criminality.

 

United Press International (American) '[Bank Robber Aiming at Security Camera, Cleveland, Ohio]' March 8, 1975

 

United Press International (American)
[Bank Robber Aiming at Security Camera, Cleveland, Ohio]
March 8, 1975
Gelatin silver print
Image: 6 7/8 × 4 13/16 in. (17.4 × 12.2 cm) Sheet: 7 1/2 × 5 7/8 in. (19.1 × 15 cm)
Twentieth-Century Photography Fund, 2015

 

This startling photograph captures a robber firing his pistol at a bank camera to prevent it from recording his identity. Although he and his accomplices absconded with $11,600 in the heist, the gunman was too slow for the ever-watchful eye of the security camera, which caught his face right before the shot rang out, enabling authorities to identify their suspect.

 

 

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Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Études’ 1994

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes the Art Blart blog which reviews exhibitions in Melbourne, Australia and posts exhibitions from around the world. He has a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne and is currently studying a Master of Art Curatorship at The University of Melbourne.

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