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Evidence, memory and the malleable photograph

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This article explores the capacity of the photograph to furnish evidence, which derives both from its indexicality and from the visual accuracy of the raw image. Photographs achieve the status of evidence not because the photograph itself has any implicit identity but rather because the State recognized that the photograph could provide proof of identification – mug shots – as early as 1850 when police departments hired photographers to take mug shots and crime scene photographs. Courts accepted the photograph as evidence as early as 1859 and continue today, even employing ‘Instagram’ officers whose job entails monitoring Instagram accounts of persons of interest. The article then explores why the photograph remains believable today to the public even with contemporary discourse about the malleability of the photograph.
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Keywords: activism; evidence; fraud; memory; photography; revolution

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Parsons School of Design

Publication date: July 1, 2017

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  • Scene is dedicated to a critical examination of space and scenic production. The journal provides an opportunity for dynamic debate, reflection and criticism. With a strong interdisciplinary focus, we welcome articles, interviews, visual essays, reports from conferences and festivals. We want to explore new critical frameworks for the scholarship of creating a scene.
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