Being a forensic photographer is not for the faint-hearted. Whether it’s photographing a woman with gushed out organs or a reeking decaying human body, you have to keep it together at all times.
Being the pessimistic that I am, I find a lot of comfort in dealing with death and tragedy. The overwhelming feeling of anxiousness most people get from seeing a dead body is enough for them to close off their mind. For me, it’s the total opposite. Seeing a dead body is only the start of the journey to finding out what led someone to their death. I can overlook the physical reality, the first dimension, and elevate my point of view to see beyond the elements surrounding a crime scene. It’s about dissociating ourselves from what our eyes are realistically witnessing and trying to reconstruct and analyze what happened. Photos should help paint a picture. That’s why our approach should be meticulous. A series of random location shots and secondary objects that could be easily dismissible can be of tangible importance. Everything in and around a crime scene could be immensely significant when placed in a broader context.
Several factors must be taken into consideration to achieve this like perspective, lighting, camera settings and the usage of different lenses. Close-ups or identification prints are very important to the investigation. However, isolating elements to get a clearer shot isn’t enough. Wide to mid-sized snaps that cover an entire or partial space showing items of evidence and where they’re positioned in relation to them help explain what happened and sometimes play an important role in the reconstruction of the events that occurred.
When arriving at a crime scene, the officer in charge of the case briefs me on the situation and highlights the important elements. My job is to first factor in the time I need to set up lighting equipment since light is the most important part of the whole process and flash is used most of the time. Every footprint, partial footprint, trace of footprint, must be diagrammed, measured, photographed with scales. Every area of blood, drops or smears, has to be assessed, measured, diagrammed and photographed as well. They should be highlighted and some of them have latent marks unseen to the naked eye. Samples of each has to be taken from all areas and their exact position must be recorded.
Unlike my artistic style which involves a lot of shadows, those are strictly avoided in this kind of work. My task is to make everything as flat and clearly visible as possible. When you’re a forensic photographer, you tend to see things in an abstract way. Every corner, every little object is purposeful and equally as important as the murder weapon since it could lead us to finding the key to solving a murder. No matter what kind of situation we’re dealing with, either a murder, sexual offense, or even a prank gone wrong, the approach is always the same. However, it’s crucial not to jump to conclusions and keep an open mind. Every scene is different. There’s more to a crime scene than meets the eye. After covering all the evidence, all of it has to be collected immediately or else it risks of getting contaminated. When you have imprints and outcome, you know the effort you’ve put it has served the case well.
Most murder scenes will take several days to process properly. Apart from the work done by the CSI, outside experts will often be called in. A Pathologist, to look at the body in situ before it’s taken for a full post mortem. A Blood Pattern Analysis expert. A Ballistics expert if a gun was involved. If a gun has been left at the scene, that requires special treatment from a Firearms Officer.
On the night of August 9, 2032, at approximately 11:30 P.M., police received a phone call from a man upon his discovery of his girlfriend’s dead body. The man claimed he had driven to the house to pick her up on their date night. David and one of his partners, homicide detective Harrison Marq were the first ones to enter the crime scene. After that, it was me as well as forensics, criminalists, technicians and someone from the coroner’s office.
I could smell death as soon as I stepped inside the house. The victim, Eve Dunford was found brutally murdered in her bed. She was stabbed multiple times and her neck was slashed. Her hands were wounded, a sign indicating she was trying to defend herself, warding off the killer’s stabbing thrusts. Her nightgown was ripped but without any signs of rape present. Her inner thighs were cut with one deep stab wound on her left inner thigh. An incision was made in her rib cage and a thermometer was inserted inside her body; the temperature was compared to the air temperature which gave the approximate time of death. She had been dead for almost ten hours. One of the CPD fingerprints expert was working so hard to find any latent prints the killer might have left. He dusted all over the house; the walls, floors, doors, tables, counters, dressers, drawers — anywhere smudges or drops of blood were found, but he couldn’t find a single print. David and Harrison decided to ninhydrin the bathroom but the counter’s surface was too smooth for it to be effective.
In the living room, David moved over to the window which served as the killer’s main entry. Wearing his gloves, he took the screen out and to the outside where he could clearly see it. He dusted it off and found a couple of indiscernible prints; the lab technicians said they weren’t any use to them. The body was then transferred to the coroner’s office where the doctor said with all certainty that the slash on Dunford’s throat proved the killer was a talented one; someone who knew the human anatomy very well. It was extremely hard for law enforcement to identify the killer and the case was closed when the investigation slowed down until it completely stopped moving forward.
David is haunted until now about the death of Eve Dunford as her case was and still is, his first unsolved murder.