Since the earliest days of the medium, photographs have been used for criminal investigation and evidence gathering, to record crime scenes, to identify suspects and abet their capture, and to report events to the public. Crime Stories: Photography and Foul Play, on view at The Metropolitan Museum of Art beginning March 7, explores the multifaceted intersections between photography and crime, from 19th-century “rogues’ galleries” to work by contemporary artists inspired by criminal transgression. The installation will feature some 70 works, drawn entirely from the Met collection, ranging from the 1850s to the present.
Among the highlights of the installation will be Alexander Gardner’s documentation of the events following the assassination of President Lincoln, as well as rare forensic photographs by Alphonse Bertillon, the French criminologist who created the system of criminal identification that gave rise to the modern mug shot. Also on display will be a vivid selection of vintage news photographs related to cases both obscure and notorious, such as a study of John Dillinger’s feet in a Chicago morgue in 1934; Jack Ruby shooting Lee Harvey Oswald in 1963; and Patty Hearst captured by bank surveillance cameras in 1974.
In addition to exploring photography’s evidentiary uses, the exhibition will feature work by artists who have drawn inspiration from the criminal underworld, including Richard Avedon, Larry Clark, Walker Evans, John Gutmann, Andy Warhol, and Weegee.