Photographing the model crime scene
Corinne May Botz spent six years in the Maryland State medical examiner’s office shooting 500 images
In the nineteen forties and fifties a Chicago heiress and criminologist named Frances Glessner Lee earned her reputation as a revolutionary of crime scene investigation. With the use of DNA profiling in courts still nearly 40 years away, crime scene investigators were forced to come up with more and more inventive ways to solve crimes and train the investigators of the future.
Glessner Lee created models of crime scenes, which depicted the grisly deaths of murder victims in America at the time. Trainee crime scene investigators were then given 90 minutes to analyse the scene and reach their conclusions about the event.
With the clever use of lighting, depth of field and framing, New York-based Corinne May Botz’s photographs of Lee’s highly detailed models attempt to make the viewers lose their sense of proportion and experience the model first hand. Incredibly, many of the objects in the models are real and do work: blinds can be lowered and raised, stereoscopes work, whistles blow and pencils write.
Botz, fascinated with the career of Glessner Lee as an upper-class woman in a male dominated profession, spent seven years researching the criminologist culminating in the photographic project The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death in which she spent six years in the Maryland State medical examiner’s office in Baltimore, creating 500 images of the dolls.
"My photographs highlight the models’ painstaking detail, as well as the prominence of female victims," says Botz. "Through framing, scale, lighting, colour, and depth of field, I attempt to bring intimacy and emotion to the scene of the crime. I want viewers to feel as if they inhabit the miniatures - to lose their sense of proportion and experience the large in the small. The models undermine the notion of the home as a safe haven and reveal it to be a far more complex sphere. All of the models depict lower middle class interiors, and the majority of victims are women who suffered violent deaths in the home."
It's not the first time Botz has chronicled the darker side of domesticity. For her MFA project at Bard she chronicled the homes and possessions of agoraphobics. More recently she completed a series of work on haunted houses. "What’s really interesting to me is people who have an extreme perception of space, or an extreme attachment to a space. Ghosts just don’t know how to let go." You can see more of her fascinating work at corinnebotz.com
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