Monday, February 12, 2007


I had been musing about the current direction of my own photography when a recent post on Paul Butzi's blog caught my eye. It was about Locard's Exchange Principle (or theory). Locard was the founding father of modern forensic science, at the root of which is his statement that "every contact leaves a trace" or "with contact between two items there will be an exchange".

Butzi's take on it is slightly different from the one I've been mulling over for some time. Many years ago when I did my basic police training we had to study a standard forensics textbook. I remember being introduced to Locard's Principle by a rather daunting Special Investigations Branch Warrant Officer, a veteran of many major investigations. He drummed the Principal into us as he taught us the basics of Forensics, photography and how not to mess up a Crime Scene (and which was nothing like the highly popular and unrealistic CSI franchise...).

Somewhere in the back of my mind Locard's Principle has stuck with me over the years. Now, the more I look at it, the more I see that my photography is often about traces - finding, following or interpreting them. They might be traces of many people or one, the traces left by memory or history, but the idea of a photographer as being a person who follows traces is one that resonates strongly for me.

And alongside this there is also the transference that takes when the photographer make a picture - as John Berger puts it "cameras are just boxes for transporting appearances". The photographer simply uses the camera to make a trace of what he sees before him or her: the exchange that takes place between photographer and scene.

As it stands right now, I think I'd be happy if my work was seen as being about interpreting traces.

tim atherton

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Your formulation of photographer as interpreter of traces really resonates with me, too. At least it feels like a good fit to some parts of my work. I think especially of landscapes that show, to a knowledgeable interpreter, the impact of centuries of human use. Your Bethicketted work is an excellent example of what I aspire to. And your hanging sheaf is a great illustration of how an image can be more about a person than if they were present.