CaP events

Tuesday 7th December 2021 from 11.00 to 14.00: Online

Portraits of crime? The ethics of displaying real lives and people

Detail of West Midlands criminal registers page, Male and juveniles, 1870-1879; image reproduced with kind permission of West Midlands Police Museum

Understanding British Portraits (UBP) and the Crime and Punishment Collections Network (CaP) were delighted to collaborate to host this thought-provoking online session which examined the display and interpretation of criminal justice portraiture.

Live recording of event:

The theme of criminal justice portraiture covered the spectrum of the frequently replicated images of ‘mugshots’ held or displayed by police force museums or archives; images gathered during police work—for example surveillance photographs of the suffragettes; replications of mugshots employed for self-expression—see the National Portrait Gallery’s Peter Gary Tatchell, Queer Terrorist—or for commercial products; artistic interpretations such as Myra by Marcus Harvey; or ‘curated’ portraits of criminals such as Ronnie Kray drinking with Baron Boothby. The session also looked at the work of Koestler Arts and the self-portraits painted by their artists who have been, or are currently going through, the criminal justice system.

Five expert speakers explored complex ethical challenges around curatorial interpretation, access, consent, agency, individual rights or legacy which may be raised in displaying such portraits: Corinne Brazier, West Midlands Police Museum: In focus: West Midlands Police mugshot collection; Jackie Keily: Peopling the Crime Museum Uncovered: The role of portraits in personalising an exhibition narrative; Fiona Curran, Koestler Arts: Portraiture as practised by those in a secure setting – the Koestler Arts experience; Professor Heather Shore, Manchester Metropolitan University: Picturing infamy: From portrait to mugshot; and Professor Helen Johnston, University of Hull: Arresting images: Ethics, photography and the Victorian/Edwardian criminal justice system.

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