Picturing the Offender: The Image as a Construction of Power, Popular Culture and Difference

By Natasha Carrington.

Published by The International Journal of the Image

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Published online: December 30, 2014 $US5.00

Crime has a long narrative history in literature, art, film, news-media and popular culture. Although realist to some extent, many of these representations construct images of offenders through their narrative and aesthetic, that inject fear and excitement in place of honesty and understanding. I am particularly interested in the role images play in the construction of myths and how aesthetics form the signposts by which criminals are identified and categorised. To test whether art could give us an alternative representation and prisoners some agency in that, I approached Corrections Victoria with the aim of interviewing prisoners so that I might gain a real life portrait and a first hand account of their perceptions of imprisonment. Although supportive of this aim and conscious of the way stereotyping drives attitudes of intolerance and ‘otherness’, The Department of Justice Research Ethics Committee expressed concerns that filming prisoners could put them at risk. They would only approve of filming on the basis that prisoners would be shown to the public in a non-identifying manner, that is, not identifiable either visually or through voice recognition. By examining our fascination with crime in film, television and the media, and comparing this with my own representation this paper will critically examine influences that shape the ways in which we conceptualise criminality. More specifically, giving focus to the role that aesthetics can play in framing the criminal, and vesting the image with the appeal of fantasy, it will question not only the social effects of representation, but also the chains that link images to power.

Keywords: Images, Criminal, Ethics, Aesthetics

The International Journal of the Image, Volume 6, Issue 1, March 2015, pp.1-12. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published online: December 30, 2014 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 875.244KB)).

Natasha Carrington

Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Natasha Carrington was born in 1967 in Melbourne, Australia where she currently works as a multimedia visual artist and teacher. In 2012 Natasha completed her PhD at Monash University in Fine Art. Her recent work The Barwon Interviews is a multimedia installation that explores the experiences of people who are incarcerated. It continues her interest into institutional thinking and the effects of power as they relate to agency, identity and the body.