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Capturing the Criminal Image

Capturing the Criminal Image: From Mug Shot to Surveillance Society

Jonathan Finn
Copyright Date: 2009
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 184
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  • Book Info
    Capturing the Criminal Image
    Book Description:

    Capturing the Criminal Image traces how the act of representing—and watching—is central to modern law enforcement. Jonathan Finn analyzes the development of police photography in the nineteenth century to foreground a critique of three identification practices that are fundamental to current police work: fingerprinting, DNA analysis, and surveillance programs and databases.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-7054-3
    Subjects: Art & Art History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Introduction: Constructing the Criminal in North America
    (pp. vii-xxii)

    The images in Figure 1 function as visual substitutes for the human body within practices of criminal identification. The image on the left is of James White, a “hotel and confidence man,” arrested, photographed, and included in Thomas Byrnes’s textProfessional Criminals of America(1886). The image in the center represents a fingerprint identified and photographed by the Metropolitan Toronto Police in a fictional crime scene in 1996. The image on the right is an autoradiograph depicting DNA analysis from a rape–murder case that was printed in the National Research Council reportDNA Technology in Forensic Science(1992).¹


  4. 1 Picturing the Criminal: Photography and Criminality in the Nineteenth Century
    (pp. 1-30)

    The police mug shot has become an icon in contemporary visual culture. The pose, framing, and formal conventions of the image are easily recognized throughout the general public. It is an image that is taken to indicate criminality. Mug shots permeate our daily lives in newspapers, on television, and in film. They have been the subject of an art exhibition at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art¹ and have been the seat of controversy, as with the picture of O. J. Simpson used byTimeandNewsweekfor their covers of June 27, 1994. The magazines used the same...

  5. 2 Photographing Fingerprints: Data, Evidence, and Latent Identification
    (pp. 31-56)

    Speaking at the 1926 International Association of Chiefs of Police convention, J. Edgar Hoover, then the newly appointed director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), announced that the Identification Division had passed the million mark in its collection of fingerprint records.¹ During fiscal year 2001, the bureau received 15.4 million fingerprint submissions.² By the close of the twentieth century, the FBI was receiving approximately fifty thousand fingerprint records a day. Half of those related to criminal investigation and half to civilian use, such as background checks for employment purposes.³ The collection of personal information on such a vast scale...

  6. 3 The Control of Inscriptions: Standardizing DNA Analysis
    (pp. 57-80)

    In “Galton’s Regret: Of Types and Individuals,” Paul Rabinow points to a central distinction between fingerprinting and DNA analysis.¹ Whereas the former is a phenotypic process, the latter is genotypic. Fingerprinting is based on the external, physical signs of the body, and DNA identification works at the cellular level. Proponents of DNA analysis describe it as the most powerful and effective method of criminal identification precisely because it operates at this primary biological level. As described in a 1996 National Research Council report on DNA evidence, “these newer molecular techniques permit the study of human variability at the most basic...

  7. 4 Potential Criminality: The Body in the Digital Archive
    (pp. 81-105)

    In chapter 2, I argued that the specific collaboration of photography and fingerprint identification at the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries produced a new mode of law enforcement exemplified by a new role of the camera. The camera’s ability to capture identification data from the live environment introduced the ability to identify criminals and track crimes independently of the physical presence of the body and free of traditional temporal and material constraints. One effect of this transformation in law enforcement practices was the development of a new archive of identification information. In addition to housing records on known,...

  8. 5 Visible Criminality: Data Collection, Border Security, and Public Display
    (pp. 106-130)

    In the introduction to this book, I posed a series of questions regarding the changing nature of visual representation in law enforcement and criminal identification practices from the nineteenth century to the present. I asked, to what extent are contemporary methods of visual representation merely new manifestations of nineteenth-century practices? What new issues have arisen, and what issues have disappeared? And, perhaps most important, what is at stake in these new methods of representation, as they assist in the construction of identity, with its attendant freedoms and limitations?

    To address these questions and to conclude the book, I propose four...

  9. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 131-132)
  10. Notes
    (pp. 133-152)
  11. Index
    (pp. 153-164)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 165-165)