Nick Marsh has been a Forensic Photographer for over 20 years. Due to budget cuts and affordable digital technology, it’s fast becoming a dying craft. This is an insight into his work and what it means to him.
Director / Editor – David Beazley
Cameraman – Max Brill
Sound Design – Andrew Deme
Colourist – Brendan Buckingham @ The Mill
The London MET Police
one of the strange anomalies that you have is if you go out for a meal I will pick up a glass look look for fingerprints I will pick up cutlery and I will go oh that's a nice fingerprint my wife will go what the hell are you on about come on you can say it's late forget the light right there it is you do tend to look at things maybe in a slightly abstract way we tend to specialize in proactive photography that is around using photography as an enhancement at the crime scene or here within the laboratory so it might be to enhance up blood and clothing it might be to enhance of injuries using UV it might be to record latent marks at the scene that you wouldn't follow this use allows for something similar nearly all evidence types have to be recorded in a photographic medium if you're going to present them at all we have an ops room here that takes in calls from genuinely crime scene managers or officers who are dealing the particular investigations and they will ring us in the jobs that they might have for that day so it could be a murder it could be sexual offences or it could be from our firearms people who want some high-speed video we never know what's going to happen for that day and that's one of the nice things about the job is that it's not regular there's a huge variety of work when you go to a crime scene you're composing that image in your mind when you're stepping in that door and you're looking at what you've got to assess and what you've got to see and you're trying to get that scene into a compact form so that you can get across to the jury what is there but in the minimum number of photographs for us it's a thought process as much as a physical hands-on process in acts fact the camera in most types of photography that we undertake is irrelevant it's about lie it's about understanding or where the lights going and what we need to see within an image types of evidence are often particulars particular wavelengths if we're going into a sexual assault scene we know that one of the peak wavelengths for body fluid is about 440 to 461 which is attuned at 4:45 if they then say well actually Nick we need to look for maybe other people who might be in here at the time then we can start looking with things like ultraviolet which bring up different sets of marks to the core four five and we start looking with the green laser which brings different marks to what we'd see with the UV so you're building up the sequential pattern of surge which basically yields somewhere between 40 and 60 percent extra marks than you would do if you just went in and powdered every scene is completely different you've got to keep a very open mind a few years ago now gentlemen in North London was murdering and on being asked to look at the flat for blood we stumbled across what looked like maybe a name or something written on the wall but the ultraviolet wasn't really doing the job but thinking outside the box we looked at using IR in this case we used an IR video camera when we use that to illuminate the walking stain we actually found that we've got the names of possible victims written up on the wall that he'd actually painted over the top so it's about you know being very aware of what's going on in that scene and is there more to that than meets the eye technology has had a massive impact in reality it's decimated the numbers of photographers employed by police forces if a buddy's got a phone and I paid a compact camera even a small digital SLR doesn't make you a photographer it just makes you somebody who owns a camera you know there's a big difference between the way that I would perceive a scene I think and the way that somebody else might problem is if you've got limited training say for example a fatal accident and you're trying to recreate that for the jury Aziz with true perspective one of the most common things I see is the use of things like wide-angle lens which clearly distorts perspective and appears to make the vehicles with twice distance they are away so if you put that into court you're actually giving them false information you're actually giving them a false impression of that scene because you know you've got rid of all your experts the level of knowledge is reduced one of the big differences here is when we're doing property often it's shot in the horizontal not in the vertical because if you show in the vertical you're limited to the camera to work top high but if you shoot in the horizontal I can put that light anywhere I like and in some places you might have that ball light six foot away to get that mark to come up properly and that's the critical bit you know we're talking of minutiae we're talking of areas point three of a meal across there's no other point in time that you're gonna get a second go of that and if you don't capture it there there's no chance further down the line so in reality if we didn't do these techniques we are missing huge chunks of evidence when I was at college I didn't go for a job at a hospital because I don't on the side of blood but when you're in a scene you're actually in there to do a task that's where your mindset is that's what your thought process is around how best we taught them so it doesn't have that shock factor perhaps some people might think I think when you have input into a case and there is an outcome there is a sense of satisfaction in knowing that the effort you've put in has got a reward enough you