Many police departments here in America basically have the armory and resources of small nations (at least according to television shows). Before the turn of the century, though, investigators basically had to sit around and hope someone would confess to a murder. The daguerrotype process of photography was invented in 1839, but the French police didn’t even use it to identify victims until the 1870’s.
The technology has advanced since then, but the processes of crime scene photography have remained fairly similar. Photography of a crime scene can help solve a case (and often does).
These vintage pictures of French murder scenes show the origins of modern-day police investigation techniques, and they’re fascinating.
This photo was used as an example for how to properly position the victim’s body to capture a shot from the side.
A large tripod was used to capture the body from above.
The cloth around this victim’s neck indicates that he was probably strangled to death, possibly in his sleep.
This body was found tied up in the Lac Daumesnil in the Bois de Vincennes, the largest park in Paris in November, 1912. The identity of the victim was never found.
The body of Mademoiselle Ferrari was found with a knife held in her hand and a wound in her heart. The scene suggests that she committed suicide, but due to the brand-new invention of fingerprinting, it was discovered she was murdered by her former lover, Monsieur Garnier.
The brownish coloring on this victim’s foot indicate the slow decay of the body. This murder happened a while before the victim was found.
This scene is covered in blood, but the body is absent. Hopefully the victim made it to the hospital in time.
This elderly woman died of unknown causes in 1913.
This was taken from the autopsy of murder victim Clémentine Pichon. Notice the seal of the French police on the document.
This was one of the first crime scenes to be photographed. Sadly, the victim was 6-year-old Rue Caillé, murdered by a local teenager.
Before fingerprinting technology became computerized, the police had to eyeball fingerprint comparisons.
It’s interesting to see how far crime investigation has advanced over the years. Remember that next time you’re watching an episode of CSI.
Several of these photos are featured in a new book called Seine de Crimes by French medical examiner, Charlier Phillippe, known to the autopsy community as “the Indiana Jones of graveyards.” So, if you’re looking for a new coffee table book…