The criminal subject : Alphonse Bertillon and Francis Galton, their aesthetics and their legacies

Francis, Melanie Sarah Jane (2013) The criminal subject : Alphonse Bertillon and Francis Galton, their aesthetics and their legacies. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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This thesis applies aesthetic language to a variety of practices associated with the production and analysis of criminal identification portraits. Much of what might seem to be standardised in this model of portraiture was influenced by abstract visual techniques that were developed in the late nineteenth century, specifically in the work of Alphonse Bertillon and Francis Galton, which frequently moves away from the judicial, into the experimental. Structured theoretically as opposed to chronologically, this thesis provides a thorough examination of the components - material, technological, temporal, and symbolic - that constitute the identification portrait.

The theoretical resonance of Galton’s composite portrait photography and other abstract techniques is seen to inform twentieth century and recent debates on photographic portraiture, and the transformation of the portrait for which Bertillon was responsible, which placed great emphasis on the need to summarise, even memorise, a subject’s ‘data’ for police purposes, is found to have a legacy that extends far beyond the standardised ‘mug shot’ into much more imaginary territories. Jacques Derrida’s terminology for the supplement, Roland Barthes’ commentaries on the photographic portrait, Julia Kristeva’s model of colour perception, and Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari’s notion of the ‘body without organs’, are some of the many theoretical models with which this material is seen to resonate.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Wrigley, R.
Lovatt, A.
Keywords: portrait, portraiture, photography, police, Galton, Bertillon, nineteenth-century, contemporary art, technology, visual culture, crime, criminality, subjectivity
Subjects: H Social sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Arts > School of Humanities
Item ID: 13349
Depositing User: EP, Services
Date Deposited: 24 Sep 2013 09:07
Last Modified: 16 Dec 2017 08:58

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