Shots in the Dark: True Crime Pictures

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"Shots in the Dark journeys into the unsettling world of crime photography. Featuring many rare and never-before-seen images, this heavily illustrated book sheds new light on the role of crime photography in our history and in our culture." From nineteenth-century mug shots and wanted posters to Weegee's famous crime-scene photographs to the notorious surveillance film of Patty Hearst, Shots in the Dark highlights key developments in the history of crime photography. These are pictures we see once and never forget: an autopsy photograph of Lee
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Overview

"Shots in the Dark journeys into the unsettling world of crime photography. Featuring many rare and never-before-seen images, this heavily illustrated book sheds new light on the role of crime photography in our history and in our culture." From nineteenth-century mug shots and wanted posters to Weegee's famous crime-scene photographs to the notorious surveillance film of Patty Hearst, Shots in the Dark highlights key developments in the history of crime photography. These are pictures we see once and never forget: an autopsy photograph of Lee Harvey Oswald; the bodies of Lizzie Borden's parents, photographed in the room where they were slain; celebrity mug shots, including Jane Fonda and Bill Gates; and pictures of Nicole Brown Simpson's home in the aftermath of her murder.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
It might sound macabre, but Gail Buckland's compilation of crime scene photographs offers readers a glimpse into history through the lens of a camera. Published in conjunction with Court TV's tenth anniversary, and a documentary of the same title, Shots in the Dark explores the development of forensic photography and its role in shaping criminal investigations, news reporting, and the emotions of the public. Arranged into sections, this volume examines serial killers, presidential assassins, gangsters, and others who have upset the social order. Famous crimes, committed by Lizzie Borden, Patty Hearst, John Dillinger, and scores of others, are included among the hundreds of photographs and illustrations.
Publishers Weekly
This is a stark exploration, in archival photography and crisp commentary, of the full range of criminal darkness. Prepared by Buckland (who teaches at Cooper Union and is coauthor of The Magic Image: The Genius of Photography, etc.) with commentary by Evans (The American Century), the volume commemorates the 10th anniversary of Court TV along with a documentary series of the same name, which begins airing this month. The book is organized by subject matter ("Crime Scenes," "Killers," "Sensational Cases," "Retribution," "Gangsters," "Presidential Assassins"), while the authors' essays and captions provide deeper discussion of forensic photography's development and evolution in the American consciousness: the '40s noir landscapes of tabloid photographers like Weegee; shocking images from the public domain, like the surveillance pictures of Patty Hearst committing robbery with the SLA; or bootlegged autopsy photos of Dillinger and JFK. The photos are comprehensive and well selected, offering a plethora of jarring images, human horror and guilty thrills. Snapshots of notorious and obscure killers provide concrete portraits of the banality of evil, while the rapist/murderer Harvey Glatman's photos of his bound victims evoke safety's fragility. As this book owes a measure of its flavor and some specific images to earlier anthologies of crime photography, notably Luc Sante's Evidence (1992), it arguably represents an incursion of once-marginal "crime culture" into the mainstream. Buckland and Evans offer an elegantly rendered coffee-table volume of depraved indifference and needless sorrow. 200 b&w photos (Oct.) Forecast: Fans of Law and Order, viewers of the Court TV series and othermainstream crime buffs will line up to buy this slick, attractively produced collection. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
If photo historian Buckland (Cooper Union) intended this to be an insightful analysis of forensic photography, she fails by falling victim to the medium's powerful potential for spectacle. The cover photo of two bloodied male corpses lying in the detritus at the foot of an elevator shaft heralds the book's gruesome content. Buckland's disavowal of voyeurism ultimately rings false. Instead of expanding upon the brief history of crime photography that appears early in the book, she saturates the pages with a repellent tabloid admixture of visuals, devoid of any organizing principle other than shock value. Among the outsized photos are views of the hacked carcasses of Lizzie Borden's parents and the composting skeleton of the Lindbergh baby. Unlike Luc Sante's Evidence (LJ 10/1/92), a haunting collection of antique crime scene photos with a quasi-anthropological focus upon a specific time and place (Manhattan, 1910-19), Buckland's book is adrift between such non sequiturs as Cheryl Crane's 1957 "perp walk," O.J. trying on the glove, and 19th-century hangings. The inevitable coda to this Court TV-sponsored paperback comes with close-ups from President Kennedy's autopsy, the apotheosis of the brutal iconography celebrated here. Not recommended. Douglas F. Smith, Oakland P.L. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780821227756
  • Publisher: Bulfinch
  • Publication date: 10/2/2001
  • Pages: 160
  • Product dimensions: 9.08 (w) x 10.96 (h) x 0.51 (d)

Meet the Author

Gail Buckland

Gail Buckland has written and collaborated on eleven books of photographic history, including Fox Talbot and the Invention of Photography, The Magic Image (with Cecil Beaton), and The American Century (by Harold Evans). She is former curator of the Royal Photographic Society of Great Britain, professor of the history of photography at the Cooper Union, and guest curator at many American museums. She lives in Warwick, New York, and New York City.

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Read an Excerpt


Excerpt


Crime Scenes


Our responses to violence are as complex as the subject itself. Many respond to violence with a mixture of horror, revulsion, outrage, fascination, arousal, and valorization.
-James Gilligan, Violence: Our Deadly Epidemic and Its Causes


We are all wildly ambivalent about crime photography. We want to look, and we want to look away. Our response to many images of violence is the same as it is to a terrifying scene in a movie: we cover our eyes but leave our fingers just a little apart. The police photographer has no option; he must take his regulation overviews and close-ups. The newspaper photographer and the TV cameraman have more latitude with camera angles and subject matter. We, the conflicted public, expect them there, at the scene of the crime, as our surrogate observers.

The ancients and Shakespeare believed in the power of tragedy to reveal truth; in the later part of the nineteenth century, people started to trust the power of the new medium of photography. "The nineteenth century," writes William Ivins, Jr., in Prints and Visual Communications, "began by believing that what was reasonable was true and... would end up by believing that what it saw a photograph of was true." Today, fact and fiction collide in photographs, and often it is hard to know what is real and what is not.

The photographs in this chapter are from real crime scenes—unmediated, with an ugly, uncensored face. Pleasant pictures are easier to look at, of course, but perhaps Freud was right: we must face our demons as well as our deities. We look at landscape photography and lose ourselves in another place. We view historical images and arrive at a deeper understanding of the past. In portraits, we see men and women whose accomplishments we admire or detest, or who simply are our neighbors here on earth. We look at photojournalism to be informed, intellectually and emotionally, about people around the world—and too often, about their plight. Beautiful photographs exist to give sensual pleasure, while snapshots are taken, for the most part, to provide fond memories later. We have no road map, no background, for viewing many of the photographs in this chapter.

We come upon them alone. We bring our own personal history, our fears and fascinations. "Don't look," our mothers told us if there was something brutish in the world, "you will have bad dreams." I have had more nightmares about accidentally or intentionally murdering someone than I have had about being the corpse on the ground. I look at the victims in some photographs for cold comfort: they reassure me that I could never do that to another human being. In his article "The Pornography of Death" (published in 1955 and quoted in Barbara Norfleet's Looking at Death), Geoffrey Gorer concluded that death had replaced sex as the taboo subject in Western society. Even pornography may elicit a communal giggle; we feel more guilt looking at death than we do looking at forbidden flesh.

The world, however, does not become a kinder, gentler place because we hide what is not kind and gentle. The crime scene pictures here have been brought out of the closet and into our consciousness. These are difficult to look at because they demand so much of the viewer. And as with death itself, we must face the significance of these images alone. Police pictures are pure evidence, and in their starkness we recoil. Photographs by Weegee, Stephen Shames, Donna Ferrato, Andrew Savulich, Alex Tehrani, and Mark Peterson, although oppressive, are easier to reconcile because they have been filtered through another person's sensibility and art.

Death is a member of the family, the distant relative who shows up unwelcome and unrecognized. Yet its otherworldliness intrigues us and, since time immemorial, makes us want to know more. The following photographs are not like nineteenth-century postmortem pictures that suggest death as one long sleep. These are about flesh and blood and brutality.

Old cliché: A picture is worth a thousand words. New cliché: One real crime scene photograph is worth a thousand Hollywood images. Sharon Tate, movie actress, was strangled, eight months pregnant-no make-believe. The young women in Harvey Glatman's photographs were really raped and murdered. The fifteen-year-old in Stephen Shames's chilling picture is truly being shot up with heroin by an adult. Some mother's daughter was killed and dumped, like garbage, in an L.A. slum. The image of the bare-breasted woman hung like a slab of meat is not a tableau by Cindy Sherman, it is bitter reality.

Until one looks at death, it is doubtful whether life can be viewed with due respect. An image of violence is also, by its very contrast, a celebration of peaceful life. The act of looking assures that we have not reached the great finality. Life makes us unique. In death, we are all the same.


Excerpted from Shots in the Dark by Gail Buckland. Copyright © 2001 by Gail Buckland. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.


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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments 8
Preface 9
Looking Crime Squarely in Its Disturbing Eye 11
Witness to Crime: Forensic Photography 27
Crime Scenes 41
Killers 67
Sensational Cases 87
Retribution 105
Gangsters 119
Presidential Assassins 135
Bibliography 156
Photograph Credits 158
Index 159
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