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Title: True stories drawn from life : a critical and cultural reflection on courtroom drawings in contemporary English national daily newspapers
Author: Hewitt, William John.
ISNI:       0000 0001 3555 6138
Awarding Body: Manchester Metropolitan University
Current Institution: Manchester Metropolitan University
Date of Award: 2008
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The central subject of this thesis is the practice of contemporary English courtroom drawing. Its outcome in daily newspapers constitutes the sole application of eyewitness drawing as a regular means of reporting hard news within the mass media. Courtroom drawing - or sketching - is a long-established, culturally pervasive but critically neglected form of visual journalism. Its antecedents and characteristics have been associated with the generic imagery of broadsides, and it is possible that its future will be curtailed by the use of photo-digital technologies. The survival of courtroom drawing is a consequence of the prohibition of image-making in British courts, which causes the representation of trials to be dependent on artists' memories. The journalistic performance and evidential value of autobiographic memory are key concerns of this thesis. I will refer to the central objects of discussion as courtroom drawings and courtroom sketches, and occasionally as courtroom art. Here the words'sketch' and 'drawing' are closely related to the activities of production, and I will attach no hierarchical attributes to these terms within the context of the depiction of modern British trials. At the outset of my research just four full-time courtroom artists were employed in the English national news media. Their testimonies provide a primary source of information concerning the material and social conditions of the production of courtroom drawings. Elements of my creative practice are referenced as a method of engaging with the mnemonic depiction of the courtroom, and in that sense this thesis is practice-led. I aim to demonstrate the research value of personal practice in the analysis of other artists' work, and to re-centre the artists' experience of production within a pluralistic critical discourse. A reflection on the Soham murder prosecutions weighs perceptions of the production experience against the display of courtroom drawings within the miscellany of daily news, leading to considerations of the wider cultural functions of memory and the interplay of the past and the present in public and private negotiations of truthfulness. I am able to conclude that contemporary courtroom sketches are the outcome of a rigorous, specific, principled and studious process of visual investigation. By presenting a more detailed account of the practice and culture of contemporary courtroom drawing than hitherto existed, this thesis makes a significant contribution to our knowledge of a rarefied form of visual journalism, and of the evidential value of personal memory in the production of hand-rendered 'eyewitness' art.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available