POLICE AND COURTROOM PORTRAIT ARTISTS
by Dale Connelly, 12/17/99
DC: With the advent of surveillance cameras just about everywhere,
in the convenience sotre, the bank, the gas station, the police car, even ...
and increasingly open access to cameras in courtrooms, the once honored profession
of the police and courtroom portrait artist is under some strain.
With me is Lars Archambeau, who is president of PACPAU, Police and Courtroom Portrait
Artists United, who insisted on drawing me while we talk. Thanks for coming in.
Tk: Hold still. I've almost got it. OK.
DC: You're done already? You've drawn me?
Tk: I've drawn your left eye. See?
(sfx: large sheet of paper)
DC: Oh. Look at that.
Tk: I start with the eyes. Windows to the soul. If you can capture the eyes you
have the whole person.
DC: That's a technique you've used in court?
Tk: Oh yes. I've had it happen many times where the eyes were all I could get,
at an arraignment or some brief court proceeding.
DC: That had to be frustrating.
Tk: After the fact, I'd have to finish the picture with a round face and a non-descript
kind of nose ... put a floppy hat on the person and fill in nearby with a leafy
plant to draw the eye away a bit ... and I still made the six o'clock news.
DC: Do you need me to be quiet while you do this ... ?
Tk: Oh no. Talk away.
DC: That you can talk and draw at the same time is amazing.
Tk: It's part of the job.
DC: Seems dangerous.
Tk: I don't know ... a barber walks around your head with scissors and talks at
the same time. THAT'S dangerous, and people accept it as a part of every day life.
This ... it's just art.
DC: So the courtroom portrait artists are banding together as a response to surveillance?
Tk: We want people to remember that when they allow their pictures to be taken
in every imaginable place at any time ... they're losing something.
They're losing the artist.
DC: Photography is an art.
Tk: It is, but a surveillance camera ... that's voyeurism. An invasion of privacy.
And these courtroom cameras ... they're stationary. It's an intrusion. There.
Your other eye is done.
What do you think?
DC: Those eyes look shifty.
Tk: I AM a police and courtroom portrait artist. I draw what I know.
I've become very good at shifty eyes.
(sfx: paper, drawing starts again)
DC: So there's work for you that's been lost. How are you trying to make it up?
Tk: We've got a marketing campaign underway. We're hoping people will hire us
to draw the important moments of their lives.
Births. Baptisms. Funerals. Weddings. Wouldn't a series of wedding sketches be
better than all those photos, hmmm?
DC: That's a fascinating idea.
Tk: I've got your head shape here.
What do you think?
DC: I've never thought of my chin as so ... weak looking.
Tk: Really? I see a lot of weak chins in my line of work.
DC: Well they say it's a hallmark of the criminal element.
Tk: You clearly have one.
DC: You think so?
Tk: It's one of the most prominent weak chins I've run across.
(sfx: paper, sketching)
DC: What do you think is the most attractive thing you offer to potential customers
who have become accustomed to photography? As a Police and Courtroom Portrait
Artist ... how can you convince someone to ... hire you to ... sketch junior's
graduation, for instance?
Tk: It's the eye of the artist. The way of seeing. We notice things the camera
won't ... and can't. A young person, just starting out in life, becoming an adult
... would be well served by a portrait artist who can look at them and bear witness
to the potential. What MAY be. What WILL be.
(sfx: sketching takes on a rapid, dotting kind of sound)
DC: And you can do that.
Tk: I have the background. I have the experience.
DC: What are you doing?
Tk: Finishing up! There!
DC: That's Me?
Tk: Weak chin. Shifty eyes.
DC: The five o'clock shadow? I look like a convict.
Tk: That's how I see you.
DC: Lars Archambeau, president of the Police and Courtroom Portrait Artists United
... branching out to do more civilian work.
Tk: Do you like the orange jumpsuit I've put you in?
DC: Orange is one of my best colors.
Tk: (fade) What county do you live in? I'll put it on the "Property of .."
line right across the back of the jumpsuit here.
Dale Connelly Reporting Home