Establishing Shots: Detecting Anthropogenic Fog in Modern Crime Scene Photography

  • Anita LamEmail author
  • Matthew Tegelberg
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Crime, Media and Culture book series (PSCMC)


Deploying an artificially intelligent (AI) detective, this chapter examines over 500 crime scene photographs with computer vision in order to experimentally see the anthropogenic fog of darkness that has characterized representations of crime since the first stage of the Anthropocene. These photographs of murder were taken by police and news photographers from the late nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century in three cities that have been centrally responsible for not only the onset of industrialization and anthropogenic climate change, but also innovations in crime scene photography: Paris, London and New York City. Computer vision and cultural analytics are introduced as methods for countering our inability to see the Anthropocene in visualizations of crime scenes. As a contribution to visual criminology’s methodological toolkit, an AI-mediated approach is built on semiotics, which, in turn, has shaped the practice of detection from classical detection fiction to real-life criminalistics. Through the AI detective’s data visualizations, this chapter documents the fog as a visual sign of darkness, ultimately connecting it to an overarching noir aesthetic that continues to inform our imagination of crime.


Crime scene photography Criminalistics Classical detective fiction Darkness (noir aesthetic) Anaesthetics Anthropogenic fog Alphonse Bertillon Sherlock Holmes Arthur (Weegee) Fellig Computer vision Cultural analytics Visual criminology Semiotics 


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Social ScienceYork UniversityTorontoCanada

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