Where cameras cannot go
March 30, 2015 7:44 PM   Subscribe

After sketching combat in WWII, Howard Brodie drew the Watergate trial, Klaus Barbie, and Jack Ruby. Bill Robles drew Charles Manson and his followers, Roman Polanski, and the Unabomber. Richard Tomlinson drew "Son of Sam" and John Gotti. Elizabeth Williams illustrated the Central Park Jogger Case, Martha Stewart, the Times Square bomber. Aggie Kenny sketched Oliver North, Angela Davis, and the Gainesville Eight trial. They are all featured on The Illustrated Courtroom blog*, and Kenny and Williams were interviewed about their craft. Their book, The Illustrated Courtroom: 50 Years of Court Art, came out last year from CUNY Journalism Press.

When cameras are banned from courtrooms, sketch artists are there to record it... at least in America. In Britain, where drawing in courtrooms is illegal, Priscilla Coleman must take detailed notes while watching, and sketch the likes of Julian Assange and Gary Glitter from memory. However, Aggie Kenny's sketches of the aforementioned Gainesville Eight trial led to the court case United States vs. Columbia Broadcasting System, which established the right of artists to sketch in court and publish those sketches. (Depicting members of the jury is generally verboten, and artists can also be prohibited from sketching minors or victims of sex crimes.)

Mona Shafer Edwards combined her fashion illustration work with her courtroom sketches when she produced a famous 2010 sketch of Lindsay Lohan being escorted away in handcuffs while sporting red-soled Louboutins. She has produced her own book, Captured! Inside the World of Celebrity Trials.

The highest-profile trial being sketched today is probably that of Dzhokar Tsarnaev. WGBH News contrasts the interpretations of Jane Collins (who also sketched the Shoebomber, John Connelly, and John Martorano) with Art Lien (who is posting extensive daily updates on his blog). Both were taken along when the jury examined the infamous boat.

Previously on metafilter

* Please note, "The Illustrated Courtroom" contains written descriptions of violent crime in the context of criminal trials.
posted by Hypatia (10 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
 
While I do think these individuals are very talented and provide a needed service in light of the current rules regarding cameras in the courtroom, I also am hoping that those rules will be changed, so we no longer need their services.
posted by NoxAeternum at 9:51 PM on March 30, 2015


One of my favorite courtroom sketches ever.

I think the attorney looked better after the dunking than before, tbh.
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 12:22 AM on March 31, 2015


Bill Robles drew Charles Manson and his followers, Roman Polanski, and the Unabomber

Ah, where would we be without the Oxford comma?
posted by iotic at 1:43 AM on March 31, 2015 [3 favorites]


I don't know, I think it's fascinating and kind of wonderful that there's a domain where photography is still excluded. (I also think it's very funny that newspapers/media still feel they need images from the courtroom even though the scenes are almost always staid and similar.) These are interesting to look at as artworks and think about what it must take to be good enough at this job to make a living at it. It's interesting how the different artists have such distinctive styles - shouldn't be surprising but it is a little.
posted by LobsterMitten at 6:59 AM on March 31, 2015


Bill Robles drew Charles Manson and his followers, Roman Polanski, and the Unabomber

Ah, where would we be without the Oxford comma?


Can you imagine the conspiracy theories that could have started if they hadn't put in that comma? Alex Jones and David Icke are muttering curses under their breath over the lost opportunity.
posted by jonp72 at 8:47 AM on March 31, 2015


I'm really interested in how Lien "doesn't sketch" the jury in the Tsarnaev trial. Collins just shows scenes that apparently never contain the jury. Lien draws them as white spaces, but you see the outlines of glasses and their gestures. It's not just when he draws someone speaking to or performing for the jury--he draws these white shadows looking at evidence, peering at monitors or wearing celebratory T-shirts (which I guess in Boston doesn't break anonymity).

If we want to preserve the privacy and anonymity of jurors, I don't see how cameras could do what Lien is doing.
posted by Hypatia at 10:05 AM on March 31, 2015


I think it's fascinating and kind of wonderful that there's a domain where photography is still excluded.

It's quaint in the way that wigs are still used in UK'ish courts, but I do think video disintermediates the application of justice in a helpful way, as much as the back of my mind has been keeping an eye out for courtroom sketch originals.
posted by rhizome at 11:09 AM on March 31, 2015


“ I also am hoping that those rules will be changed, so we no longer need their services.”

Whether anyone would be willing to pay for it is a separate issue, but there is an argument to be made that what an artist brings to such situations is valuable even if photography is allowed. After all, the concept of the "official war artist” comes after the start of photography and the result conveys things that the photographs can’t.

Frank Hurley and Paul Nash depicted many of the same things, but they are complementary rather than substitutes for each other.
posted by Quinbus Flestrin at 12:29 PM on March 31, 2015


Hypatia: "If we want to preserve the privacy and anonymity of jurors, I don't see how cameras could do what Lien is doing."

Pixelization. Although if you mean "how cameras could not record the jurors in the first place", then no, but I'm not sure if the ban is on portrayal or publication.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 8:01 PM on March 31, 2015


You could put a polarized window in front of them and require photographers to have polarizing filters.
posted by rhizome at 8:02 PM on March 31, 2015


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