An Exhibition Explores How Photos Have Been Used To Prove Crime And Violence

Over the past century, photographs have been used as evidence of acts of violence or crime.

An exhibition, dubbed “At the Crime Scene: Image Testing from the Shroud of Turin to War Drones,” currently on view at the Italian Center for Photography in Torino, Italy, is exploring the role recorded images have played in documenting misdeeds and catastrophe. The show presents case studies spanning everything from 19th-century crime scene photographs to a 21st-century digital reconstruction a drone attack in Pakistan.

In between, there are images from the beginning of the 1900s, developed in the laboratory of Alphonse Bertillon, a French criminologist. Bertillon is credited with advancing scientific techniques to standardize criminal photography. Close-up shots of crime scenes taken by German criminologist Rodolphe Archibald Reiss follow from Bertillon’s work. 

Another series on display traces the history of the Shroud of Turin — a piece of cloth that carries the image of a crucified man, and stands as one of Christianity’s most polarizing relics — while other objects explore the impact of large-scale conflict, like the photographs taken in identical locations before and after World War I, documenting the effects of bombings. Even more contemporary conflict photographs capture the buildings destroyed in Gaza by the 2009 Israeli attacks. 

“This exhibition explores both the power and the limits of photography in the search for truth,” the organizers write in a curatorial statement. “The power is the power of imagery, more impactful and convincing than words or numbers or statistics can ever be. The limit is that of technique, which often contradicts the concept that the photographer’s lens is an infallible eye, one that captures everything and records everything, capable of freezing a given moment in time.”

“At The Crime Scene: The Construction of Visual Evidence” will be on view at The Italian Center for Photography until May 1, 2016.

  • 1
    Archives de la Prfecture de police de Paris.
    The murder of monsieur Canon, Boulevard de Clichy, December 9, 1914.Protocol by Alphonse Bertillon.
  • 2
    Archives de la Prfecture de police de Paris.
    The murder of Madame Langlois, the Puteaux case, April 5, 1905. Protocol by Alphonse Bertillon.
  • 3
    R. A. REISS, coll. IPSC
    Demonstrative image of Bertillon’s forensic photographic approach, with a body simulating a corpse and the camera in position. Used as teaching material for courses and conferences.
  • 4
    R. A. REISS, coll. IPSC
    A demonstrative image of Bertillon’s forensic photographic approach, with a body simulating a corpse and the camera in position. Used as teaching material for courses and conferences.
  • 5
    R. A. Reiss, coll. IPSC
    The cloth with which Madame Ducret was strangled, Beaumaroche, Vaud, September 24, 1907.
  • 6
    R. A. Reiss, coll. IPSC
    Fingerprints revealed on a wax tablet, GrandChne, Lausanne, Vaud, November 25, 1915.
  • 7
    R. A. Reiss, coll. IPSC
    Superimposition of the tool on the fingerprint (extracted from a series of four images), Yverdon, Vaud, May 13 1912.
  • 8
    Institut catholique de Paris, Bibliothque de Fels.
    The Shroud of Turin, Turin: face, traces of blood and serum left on the forehead by the crown of thorns. Negative. Image created by enlargement of a clich by Giuseppe Enrie (1931-1933).
  • 9
    Institut catholique de Paris, Bibliothque de Fels.
    The Shroud of Turin, Turin: hands, serum infiltrations on the fingers and (below) the blood lining the base of a fold corresponding to the back side of the left hand, in the carpus region. Traces of a hole created by a vaguely polygonal nail measuring 6 to 7 mm in diameter. Negative. Image created by enlargement of a clich by Giuseppe Enrie (1931-1933).
  • 10
    Institut catholique de Paris, Bibliothque de Fels.
    The Shroud of Turin, Turin: imprint of the face and back. Image created by a reverse of the silver negative on glass plates by Secondo Pia, 1898.
  • 11
    Archivi Centrali FSB e Archivi Nazionali della Federazione Russa GARF, Mosca, copie pubblicate dagli archivi dellAssociazione Internazionale Memorial, Mosca.
    Alekse Grigorievitch Jeltikov, Russia, born 1890 in the village of Demkino, in the Riazan region. Attended elementary school. Left the VKP(b) in 1921 because he disagreed with the party’s New Economic Policy (NEP). Blacksmith at the underground station in Moscow. Resident in Moscow at Sadovaa-Tchernogriazskaa 3, apartment 41. Arrested on July 8, 1937. Sentenced to death on October 31, 1937 and executed the following day. Rehabilitated in 1957.
  • 12
    Archivi Centrali FSB e Archivi Nazionali della Federazione Russa GARF, Mosca, copie pubblicate dagli archivi dellAssociazione Internazionale Memorial, Mosca.
    Marfa Ilinitchna Riazantseva, Russia, born 1886 in the village of Kosafort, near Makhatchkala, Daghestan. Knows how to read and write, but belongs to no party. Retired. Resident in Moscow at Mechtchanskaa 62, apartment 26. Arrested on August 27, 1937. Sentenced to death on October 8, 1937 and executed October 11, 1937. Rehabilitated in 1989.
  • 13
    Archivi Centrali FSB e Archivi Nazionali della Federazione Russa GARF, Mosca, copie pubblicate dagli archivi dellAssociazione Internazionale Memorial, Mosca.
    Stanisaw Rytchardovitch Budkiewicz, Poland, born 1887 in d. Attended university, member of the VKP(b), Brigade Commissary (political official) entrusted with military secret services, officially the scientific secretary for the preparation of the Soviet Military Encyclopedia. Resident in Moscow at Pouchkine 6, apartment 15. Arrested on June 9, 1937. Sentenced to death on September 21, 1937 and executed the same day. Rehabilitated in 1956.
  • 14
    Archivi Centrali FSB e Archivi Nazionali della Federazione Russa GARF, Mosca, copie pubblicate dagli archivi dellAssociazione Internazionale Memorial, Mosca.
    Elizaveta Alekseevna Vonova, Russia, born in 1905 in the village of Zakharovo, Kinski district, Moscow region. Attended university, no party affiliations, mother and housewife. Resident in Moscow at Manejnaa 5, apartment 9. Arrested on September 23, 1937. Sentenced to death on October 29, 1937 and executed on November 13, 1937. Rehabilitated in 1989.
  • 15
    Paris Muse de lArme, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais, photo Marie Bour
    Douaumont Fort, near Verdun, France, May 20, 1916, 4pm, altitude 1,200 m, aerial photograph.
  • 16
    Paris Muse de lArme, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais, photo Marie Bour
    Douaumont Fort, near Verdun, France, November 4, 1916, 12pm, altitude 900 m, section of an aerial photograph.
  • 17
    Fazal Sheikh
    Al-Tri cemetery, al-‘Araqb, Fazal Sheikh, October 9, 2011. The graves at the center of the cemetery are the oldest, dating to before the founding of Israel.
  • 18
    A British Survey of Palestine, 194
    Zone d’al’-Araqi, image 5033, RAF series Palestine Survey, January 5, 1945. The Al-Tri cemetery is located on the red line no. 14 at the top, in the upper left-hand corner.
  • 19
    A British Survey of Palestine, 1947
    Al-Tri cemetery, detail no. 14 enlarged from image 5033, RAF series Palestine Survey, January 5, 1945.
  • 20
    Christian Delage, Compagnie des phares et balises, 2006
    The accused on November 29, 1945 before images of Nazi concentration camps are shown. Photograms taken from the film Nuremberg, les nazis face leurs crimes, realized by Christian Delage (2006).
  • 21
    Christian Delage, Compagnie des phares et balises, 2006.
    The accused during projection. Photograms taken from the film Nuremberg, les nazis face leurs crimes, realized by Christian Delage (2006).
  • 22
    OSS Archivi, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington D.C.
    Model of the new courtroom of the International Tribunal. Summer 1945. Realized by the architect Dan Kiley for Judge Robert H. Jackson.
  • 23
    Behrdengutachten i.S. von 256 StPD, Lichtbildgutachten Mengele, Josef, geb. 16.03.11 in Gzburg. Bundeskriminalamt, Wiesbaden, June, 14, 1985, courtesy Maja Helmer
    Portrait of Josef Mengele taken from the SS archives and from Wolfgang Gerhard (Mengele’s pseudonym), found in the Bossert house in Brazil. (The Bossert’s hosted him until his death.) These images display notes by Richard Helmer: 24 points that delineate the profile of the face.
  • 24
    Richard Helmer, courtesy Maja Helmer, 1985
    Video montage produced using photographs of Mengele and of his skull in Richard Helmer’s demonstrations of the technique of superimposition, Medical-Legal Institute Labs, San Paolo, Brazil, June 1985.
  • 25
    Susan Meiselas, Magnum Photos
    Tomb A-South, Koreme, Northern Iraq, June 1992.
  • 26
    James Briscoe pour Human Rights Watch et Physicians for Human Rights, 1993
    Paper drawing to scale and orientation of graves in A-South, Level 1, archeological team members from the medical-legal squad of the mission, Middle East Watch and Physicians for Human Rights, May-June 1992.
  • 27
    James Briscoe pour Human Rights Watch et Physicians for Human Rights, 1993
    Paper drawing to scale and orientation of graves in A-South, Level 1, archeological team members from the medical-legal squad of the mission, Middle East Watch and Physicians for Human Rights, May-June 1992.
  • 28
    Ministre des Travaux publics et du Logement de lAutorit Palestinienne.
    Original page in Arabic of the construction N4005-02 from the archive “Verification of the architectural destruction caused by attacks due to Israeli occupation,” 2009.
  • 29
    Ministero dellEdilizia e delle Opere Pubbliche dellAutorit Palestinese.
    G1021-04 neighborhood: Gaza; near Shuja’iyya; date of destruction: 13 April 2009; method of destruction: bulldozer; date of inspection: 14 April 2009; destruction status: completely destroyed.
  • 30
    Ministero dellEdilizia e delle Opere Pubbliche dellAutorit Palestinese.
    N2012-10 neighborhood: North Beit Hanon; near Al-Sikka; date of destruction: January 4, 2009; method of destruction: bulldozer; date of inspection: 14 April 2009; destruction status: completely destroyed.

This post first appeared on HuffPost Italy. It has been translated into English and edited for clarity.

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