All in a Day’s Work: Photographing a Murder Scene
I was thinking of Weegee the Famous, or Infamous, who in the 50’s, would keep to his police radio on for the latest crime disasters, then show up in the midst of the police conflict and initial confrontation with victim and perpetrator. He did make some remarkable and gruesome pictures. I was both excited and nervous when I got the call to photograph a murder scene.
This particular attorney was defending the accused that was claiming self-defense. The crime happened in an ordinary neighborhood, where kids play and families mingle.
I was walked through the movements of the two combatants and told where to create “evidence photos.” I shot as I was told to, walking the steps of the assailant, who I was told was acting just defensively. It felt strange and a bit ominous to aim the camera where someone was pursuing another for the sole purpose of terminating that other. Self-defense? Is this where he jumped the chain-link in defending or offending? I didn’t like this guy I was working for.
I had been hired by referral from the previous lawyer who asked me to photograph the flesh wounds, made by the bullet holes mentioned in another piece. I never met this lawyer guy, but felt the referral was a proper intro. I had no trouble developing the film overnight and making a number of prints to deliver the next day. I left my invoice and expected to receive payment in net 30. I was paid quickly for the other crime-related job.
A month passed and then another couple of weeks. I made a phone call seeking payment. After a serious of brush-offs, I visited the office but the lawyer was not present. I sued successfully and went through the process for some four months, even securing a body attachment for this sleazy deadbeat lawyer. The sheriff was reluctant to pick up “an officer of the court.” I finally got the idea to write to the Bar’s Ethics Chairman. Within a few days, I was paid in full, with a letter of apology.
Crime may not pay for some, and the guilty sometimes do get off. One thing I was sure of was that I would be paid for my crime photography. I was no Weegee, looking for a suspenseful shot. I just expected to get paid for my work. And paid I was.