American Art and Visual Culture Seminar: Shawn Michelle Smith, School of the Art Institute of Chicago

Friday, January 27, 2012

2 pm to 5 pm

Room 101

Center for American History and Culture Programs
American Art and Visual Culture Seminar

“After the Mugshot: On the Limits of Photographic Evidence
Shawn Michelle Smith, School of the Art Instiute of Chicago
Photography has a long and complicated relation to systems of criminal identification.  From the moment photographs became easy to reproduce in the nineteenth century they were institutionalized in police stations and prisons, and today the mugshot remains an iconic image.  The two contemporary artists discussed in this paper, Taryn Simon and Deborah Luster, make photographs that engage and challenge the legacy of the mugshot, exploring different aspects of photography’s problematic, and powerful, relation to criminal identification and incarceration.  Both artists photograph individuals who have been ensnared by the U.S. penal system, and their portraits question and redirect photography’s institutional role in defining and demarcating the criminal.

Commentators: Sarah Evans, Northern Illinois University and Gregrory Foster-Rice, Columbia College Chicago

Scholl Center Seminar papers are pre-circulated electronically.  For a copy of the paper, email the Scholl Center at  Please do not request a paper unless you plan to attend.