Interrogating Dump Sites


Shadow Spaces from the Art | Crime Archive: Creativity, Culture, and Criminality
Featuring Interrogating Dump Sites: Photographs by Stephen Chalmers
Curated by Brian Goeltzenleuchter

Love Library, San Diego State University
March 1 – May 31, 2014


Photographer Stephen Chalmers gained recognition with his photographs of ‘dump sites’—wild spaces where infamous serial killers disposed of their victims. Using GPS technology, the artist precisely located these spaces years after they had been crime scenes. He then used advanced photo techniques to render images that are beautiful and still – a decidedly different look from most cinematic and forensic depictions of murder. Criminology thus wonders: is it the ‘crime’ of these images that makes them ‘art?’ Is there something controversial about the artist taking possession of these spaces and using their terrifying history for aesthetic value? Is Chalmers simply making more technically proficient the long established criminological practice of documenting spaces of death? Or could something more self-aware be taking place? Is the artist commenting on the role the photographic image plays in fictional and nonfictional representations of murder? Chalmers refers to these images as “visual dead ends,” suggesting that they neither satisfy our desire for murder-as-spectacle nor fulfill our hope in photography-as-forensic-evidence. Titled with only the names and ages of the victims, these photographs ask viewers to contemplate how they consume the photographic image of murder.


(Selected audio featured in exhibition)
Doll, N. (2013) Does the Pacific Northwest Breed Sierial Killers Fox 12 Oregon

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