Journal of Forensic Identification Article

I wrote an article that is being published in the September/October issue of the Journal of Forensic Identification. The JFI is the official publication of the International Association for Identification.

I have seen several postmortem drawings of unidentified people published where it is obvious that the artist just traced over the features of a morgue photo, and made adjustments (opening the eyes, removing facial trauma). This looks disrespectful to me. Unfortunately, the artist usually doesn’t get very much to work with in doing this work, and often that poor quality photo is the only source for the image. Many scene and morgue photos are taken without regard to being an optimal image for an artist to work with. Frequently, they are taken while the photographer is standing at about the waist of the victim, and photographing up toward the face. The features are distorted in this view. It would make more sense and be a better drawing if the face could be rotated into a natural position – the Frankfort Horizontal. This is the most natural position for the head in life.

In the past, it was understood that you need a profile view in order to rotate the head. When working with just the awkward angle of the morgue photo, a profile is usually not provided. I have come up with a method to rotate the head using only an anterior (front) view. In this article, I explain that this technique isn’t appropriate for all cases, but could be used in cases where the angle of the photo isn’t too steep. I taught this at a workshop at the Forensic Anthropology Center at Texas State last year. My intention with this article is to make this technique available for other artists who did not attend my workshop but have a case where this could be used.