Works > Every Contact...

Every Contact..., 2015–2016

In the early 20th century, French criminologist Edmond Locard observed that “every contact leaves a trace”. This is especially pertinent in the field of fingerprint analysis.

Since Locard’s observation, fingerprint analysis technology has advanced vastly, and is now utilised not only for law enforcement, but increasingly as a method of biometric identification for border and other forms of access control.

This body of work comprises images of fingerprints obtained from public archives transferred onto appropriately sourced glass objects by etching. It seeks to reimagine the objects from historical archives and reanimate the objective fingerprint records with personal narratives. They also render impermanent traces (real fingerprints on the original objects) more permanent (transcribed fingerprints etched onto similar objects).

Through the act of appropriating private biometric data available in the public realm, the works seek to highlight issues about privacy, security, access to and the use and potential abuse, of fingerprint records held by authorities.

Heinz 57 Varieties (Ronnie Biggs)

Ronnie Biggs was a member of the gang that carried out the Great Train Robbery of 1963. A Heinz 57 Varieties ketchup bottle bearing Biggs’ fingerprints was found in the farm where the gang hid immediately after the robbery. It became an evidential exhibit during his trial. This work is a 1960s’ ketchup bottle, etched with copies of Ronnie Biggs’ fingerprints.

Heinz 57 Varieties (Ronnie Biggs) - detail

Beer Mug (The Silent Man)

Charlie Wilson was also one of the Great Train Robbers. He became known as "the silent man" because he refused to say anything in court during his trial. This work is a 1960s beer mug with a copy of his fingerprints etched onto it.

Ink Bottle (Francis Galton)

Francis Galton (1822-1911) was a half-cousin of Charles Darwin and a polymath who, as well as his many other discoveries in science, statistics and anthropology, pioneered fingerprint analysis. It was known that he often carried a fingerprint kit, comprising a small ink bottle, paper and other paraphernalia. This work is a 1900’s ink bottle etched with copies of Francis Galton’s fingerprints, suggesting the presence of his real fingerprints on the original ink bottle.

Lightbulb (George Armstrong)

This work was inspired by a letter found in a public archive written by the Chief Constable of Manchester to the Commissioner of Scotland Yard in 1929. It related to a murder case (George Armstrong) in which the Manchester police found fingerprints on several artefacts, including a lightbulb, which were sent to Scotland Yard for analysis. The work comprises a photograph of the letter and a lightbulb etched with copies of the victim’s fingerprints.

Police Letter: Page 1 (George Armstrong)

Police Letter: Page 2 (George Armstrong)