The Surface and the Soul: Purpose and Politics of the Terrorist Mugshot
Chapter, Peer reviewed
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Original versionSimonsen AH: The Surface and the Soul: Purpose and Politics of the Terrorist Mugshot . In: Fonn BK, Hornmoen H, Hågvar YB, Hyde-Clarke N. Putting a Face on it: Individual Exposure and Subjectivity in Journalism , 2017. Cappelen Damm Akademisk
When terror strikes, the terrorist is more often than not portrayed in a mugshot, an ID-like photograph with references to police mugshots as well as the passport ID. This has developed into the common iconography where modern terrorists are concerned. But how are we supposed to perceive this visual statement from the media? Is the mugshot a portrait of an individual or a category of anti-social criminals? Through the case of Anis Amri, the Tunisian who drove a stolen truck into a Christmas market in Berlin on December 2016, this article discusses the genealogy of the terrorist mugshot. It evokes the legacy of the physiognomic tradition in photography, as well as the history of the photographic portrait. It further discusses the agency of the photographic frame in the wake of terror and other dramatic events, and asks what the media gain and lose by adhering to this visual convention.