Keith Smith: CSI Photographer – Lecture and Workshop

On Thursday 17th October 2013, Crime Scene Investigator Keith Smith came into university to present an hour and a half lecture. After the lecture was complete, we were then able to ask him a variety of different questions in relation to his job. For the afternoon session, we were then given a number of tasks to complete. Below are all of the notes that I took throughout the day along with the photographs we took during the afternoon:

  • Tend crime scenes of every different kind
  • Photographs used as evidence
  • 24/7
  • On call system – works every single day
  • Typical crime scene – burglaries
  • Specialist subjects – fire investigation
    • Suspicious origin or fatal
  • Disaster victim identification
  • Chemical, biological, radiation, nuclear
  • Terrorism – bombs, chemical weapons
  • Covert work – specialist covert forensics
    • Gathering forensics without anyone knowing that they’re there
  • Why are photographs at crime scenes so important?
    • Benefit of the court
    • Takes the crime scene into the court
    • Need to be able to explain it in great detail including context – need photographs
  • No different to normal photography but has a lot more difficulties
  • What do they look for?
    • Finger prints
    • Foot prints
    • DNA
    • Fibers
    • Weapon
    • Ear-prints and lip-prints!
    • Clothes
  • Locard’s Principle – every contact leaves a trace
  • Essence of being a crime scene investigator is looking for those pieces of evidence – it’s always there, but can we find it?
  • Alphonse Bertillon
    • Father of forensics
    • Standardizing identification – measurements (are unique and don’t change much after puberty)
    • One of the first people to use finger prints and using camera’s in the crime scene
    • Gave birth to modern forensics
  • Where does he conduct his work?
    • Imperfect environments
    • Quality of photograph still needs to be perfect
  • About being a competent photographer in certain circumstances
  • Process of how to compose crime scene photographs
    • Need to be able to walk the jury around the crime scene and evidence through his photographs
    • Form of documentary photography
    • Show crime scene in it’s entirety, overall shot
      • Setting the scene
    • Look for the evidence types so that you don’t disturb them
    • Take a context shot – showing evidence types
    • Take evidence shots
    • Want an early hit/early evidence
    • Need to scale and label evidence photo
      • Really important
  • Looking for contact between offender and crime scene
  • Taking a photograph of anything that is an impression – need a light source at the four sides so that people can merge the images together to give the perfect silhouette
  • Most useful tools in crime scene photography – CONTRAST
    • Not in images but in equipment – transfer to different coloured paper
    • Carries around colour wheel to find contrast
    • Uses different coloured filters for lights
    • Carries around five different light sources
    • Carries around different colour powder – depends on what colour background it’s on
      • Can use ultraviolet powders
    • Intrinsic light source – safe to use in every situation
  • Ultraviolet – makes the unseen seen
  • Postmortems
    • 2 crime scene investigators
      • 1 takes evidence
      • Other takes photographs
    • Can’t do it with flash
    • It’s all about white balance
    • Have to wear so much protective gear
      • 3 or 4 sets of gloves – if one gets contaminated, you need to peel it of
  • Fires
    • Inherently problematic due to the matte black
    • Look for fire shadowing – where the fire has burnt up against the surface
  • Photographs have to be peer reviewed
  • Only ever get one shot
  • Road traffic accidents
    • Not all road traffic accidents – suspicious
    • Environmental problems
    • Identify evidence with traffic chalk – stays there for a while so can be revisited
  • Painting with light
    • The further away you are from the camera, the longer you have to leave the light source there
  • Digital age
    • More photographic mistakes during the “old day” – using film
  • Rules about evidence
    • Focus is key
  • Fingerprints
    • Unique
    • In the womb, skin starts to fold around the sweat glands in the fingers
    • Biological use is for grip
  • Latent evidence – making the unseen seen
  • Scale
    • Fixed, rigid 90 degree scale
    • Can use something like a penny in covert situations

 

Questions:

  • How did you know that’s what you wanted to do?
    • He didn’t
    • Started off in the army
    • Financial adviser in Basingstoke
    • Came into it by chance
  • How long did it take you to get to the level you are now?
    • Basic course is 11 weeks
    • Competent crime scene investigator after 4 years
    • Specialize in something
    • Some things you can do some you can’t –
    • Taken 13 years to get there
  • Ever worry that one of your photographs doesn’t show the truth?
    • Have the power to manipulate evidence
    • Camera doesn’t really always tell you the truth
    • Behind the scenes issue with crime scene photography
    • Yes
    • Need to get to the bottom of the truth
    • Need to have a moral compass
  • Do you tend to have an emotional response to any crime scenes or have you had to learn to control it?
    • It’s like a poison. You take in the poison, but you have built up an immunity to it
    • Always has an emotional response and always hopes that it continues
  • Is it only you or do you work with other photographers?
    • Part of a team of 5 photographers
    • Cover a large area
    • Covert is national
  • Are there any regulations about the camera equipment you can use?
    • No
    • There should be with the photographs that they are asked to take
    • Tends to have Nikon equipment supplied to them
  • Forensically minded, does the job suit a particular personality type?
    • Anal
    • OCD
    • Perfectionist
    • Inquisitive – have to like puzzles (especially burglaries)
    • Have to think a bit like the criminal
    • Women tend to be better than men in his job
      • Slightly better eye for detail
      • Thorough minded
      • (Stereotyping obviously)
    • Patients
    • Real desire to find the truth in things
  • How competitive is your job to get into?
    • Fiercely
    • Mostly because of it’s popularization on TV – not like it is on TV
  • Because it’s so competitive, is there anything that would make you stand out from the rest?
    • Will now need to either have a degree in biology or chemistry
    • Degree – get’s background information
  • Do you have a certain amount of time that you need to complete the crime scene?
    • No
    • Can stay as long as you want/need
  • In an interview process what do you use?
    • Psychometric testing – no right or wrong answer
    • Moral dilemmas
    • Mathematical – look for the person that isn’t looking at the time on the clock but looking at doing the job right
    • Try to panic you – see how you handle things under pressure
      • E.g. set the fire alarm off and the interviewer stays there!

 

Afternoon Practical:

  • Finger printing
    • Incredibly fine
    • Highly explosive
    • Only need to retrieve powder from the side of the pot
    • Only need to go across the finger print very softly
    • Keep changing directs for the indent
    • If you put too much powder on, you can just use a clean brush to gently take off the excess

IMG_5339

 

  • Shoe prints
    • Take acetate off of the jelly
    • Powder the bottom of your shoe
    • Stand in the jelly
    • If you want to take a photo, do not put the acetate back on top
    • If you want to take it as a souvenir, put acetate back on top

IMG_7700

 

  • Professional task
    • Put on all of the CSI equipment
    • Find fingerprints on the mug
    • Photograph

IMG_5347

 

  • Assault scene
    • Need to find 3 pieces of evidence
    • Number
    • Photograph as if it where a real crime scene

IMG_5348

 

IMG_5350

 

IMG_5353

 

IMG_5357

 

IMG_5352

 

  • Darkroom
    • Find fingerprints using UV light
    • Use the magnetic wand
    • Take photographs
    • Wipe fingerprints off and leave new ones for the next group

IMG_5316

  • Optional
    • Shoe print underwater
    • Get a good photograph without glare

IMG_5320

Advertisements