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NUCLEUS | Imagining science
From 22 October - 26 November 2017, the 24th edition of the Noorderlicht International Photography Festival will take place. During ‘NUCLEUS, imagining science’ work of 74 photographers from 26 countries can be seen at six locations in Groningen, Eelde and Assen.
Tribute to human ingenuity
NUCLEUS is about science and the representation of it by independent photographers and artists. In response to social developments, more and more artists use science in their research and as a source of inspiration. Science and art form a fertile combination after all. Both disciplines work from an investigative urge, with curiosity, originality, creativity and an open mind as fundamental principles. In NUCLEUS, the photographers tell their stories about science and the representation of it in around 700 images. It is the first time a collaboration from Noorderlicht will occur with KINK in Assen and Museum De Buitenplaats in Eelde.
"Painted post-mortem stains"
Forensics is a silver bullet, but it's also hard work.
Jeroen Hofman followed students during their training.
"They must focus on looking, listening and smelling. And presume nothing."
There she lies. On a shelf, in her underwear, with a baby on her head. Around her, mannequins just like her, mostly naked. Perhaps this image best shows how common, how trivial research into a violent death can be. "I was most intrigued by the pink Crocs on her feet," says photographer Jeroen Hofman. "People at the Police Academy no longer notice such things. Although they do cover up the child-mannequins when there are visitors. Apparently that would be too confronting." He was allowed to photograph at the Netherlands Forensic Institute (NFI) and the Police Academy in Apeldoorn and Ossendrecht. This has produced sterile, macabre and alienating scenes. Take the body on the inspection table. Look closely at the post-mortem stains. Those have been painted on. Not a mannequin, but a real person it turns out. All done to make things as realistic as possible. The man in the grey underpants had posed for the photographer just moments earlier standing upright. There's a knife in his back. "This was a real case, a robbery-homicide," says Hofman, "afterwards, the knife was taken out of… ehm… taken off of his back before getting on the inspection table." When the photographer later showed his work to the actors, some found it confronting. "They were impressed by its authenticity." He found it creepy himself: "there you are, photographing a "corpse" which a second later gets up off the inspection table. Truly zombie-like. But none of the people there joked about it. It's serious business, not a puppet show."
Forensics is a silver bullet. Detection is becoming increasingly accurate thanks to the power of computers and a growing insight into the uniqueness of human DNA. But in the end it's also down to hard work and "old-fashioned" detective work. Hofman was surprised at how carefully these future detectives go about their work. How at all times they try to avoid contamination of the crime scene. Look at the photograph with the plastic stepping plates, which the detective uses to enter the room without leaving shoe prints. Dressed in the iconic white suit, surgical mask and hair net, he's taking a picture with a 3D-camera. With it, he can create an extremely realistic computer model of the crime scene which can be used again and again in answering research questions. What was the exact location of the furniture? Did the suspect have enough room to lash out with the knife? What does the bloodstain pattern look like? Hofman witnessed how these future detectives do their utmost to get as close to reality as possible. In the grounds of the Police Academy in Apeldoorn for instance, plastic skeletons covered with animal meat are buried. After three months students are given the task of finding the location of these "corpses", using prickers amongst other things. During all these operations, above all, they must focus on looking, listening and smelling," Hofman knows. "And presume nothing. They must take care not to be led astray by their imagination."
FORENSICS, the kick off!
With my new project FORENSICS I have set myself the task of mapping the broad spectrum of science and technology that is used for finding out the truth in criminal investigations. The Netherlands lead the way in new forensic methods and techniques allowing for ever more effective and efficient investigating. But what exactly is forensic science? Where and how are specialists trained and how is their knowledge applied at crime scenes? Where does the work of the forensic scientist start and that of law enforcement end? What forensic techniques are at the scientist's disposal? From cold cases, bloodstain pattern analysis and suspect profiling to DNA research and the work of the pathologist: I bring you the full story.