Kris Kelley Studios
artist : freelance photographer

Untitled (Mugshot Study)

untitled (mugshot study) 

Date: 2014

Medium: Plexiglass, Gaterboard, transparency film, LED lights, mono-filament thread 

Sizes:  each box, 30 x 24 x 20 inches

Exhibitions: 2014, Photography Graduate Exhibition, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA

Publications: “@ Issue: Heredity, Shared Experiences and Crime,” Temple University, Philadelphia, PA, 2015.

Read about my process with this project in my blog.

Sir Francis Galton, a scientific pioneer of the early 19th century, studied anthropology, photography, and eugenics. He coined the phrase “Nature vs. Nurture” and believed that certain psychological characteristics could, through breeding, be eliminated from the human race. To accomplish selective breeding, he developed several methods to identify genetic characteristics that criminals, the poor and the unintelligent share as well as the characteristics that the rich, intelligent and non-criminals share. 

One such method, called “Composite Portraiture” superimposed multiple photographic portraits to create one composite image. Galton theorized that from composite portraits, physical commonalities among a group of interest such as height, size of facial features and location of facial features would emerge to form a physiognomic portrait representative of that group. 

His studies raised the question: what behaviors and characteristics are nature and nurture each responsible (or to blame) for? Untitled (Mugshot) Study employs Sir Francis Galton's "Composite Portraiture” to map the complex relationships between offenders and victims, and explore the implications of nature and nurture in sexual assault and sexual abuse. 

In a majority of sexual abuse and assault cases, the victim knows the attacker, either through family, friends or work. Although the exact percentage is debated, it is generally agreed upon by the scientific community that one-third of victims of sexual violence/abuse will become abusers themselves, and about half of all sexual offenders were sexually abused themselves. Within specific groups, these numbers are even higher. These statistics suggest that there is a link between being abused and becoming an abuser. In relation to the nature vs. nurture debate, when victims become abusers, are those abusive behaviors learned (nurture) or are they inherited (nature)via genetics?

Mugshots of offenders and victims were printed on transparency film, and layered linearly in rows. These rows depict the order of offence, starting with the principal abuser and ending with a victim. The resulting composite image in each row is a portrait of a victim, composed of the complicated histories of abuses and the victimizations of their attacker, and the offenders/victims before them. There are three separate boxes, each containing four rows of images that depict the sexual violence within one family. The series as a whole forms a portrait of the cycles of sexual violence that occur within families.