Law Text Culture


The trouble with pictures contributes to an emerging field that explores the myriad of relationships between law and visual culture. The last decade or so has seen the consolidation of ‘visual culture’ into a recognised field of interdisciplinary — even postdisciplinary — study, its permeable borders now enclosing law. When Douzinas and Nead published their collection Law and the Image they characterised what has been the traditional relationship of law and art in two analytically distinct ways: ‘law’s art, the ways in which political and legal systems have shaped, used and regulated images and art, and art’s law, the representation of law, justice and other legal themes in art’ (Douzinas & Nead 1999: 11). By taking as our theme the trouble with pictures, we have sought to include pieces that acknowledge these more conventional confrontations between image and law, but which also challenge the sometimes artificial separations between law and the visual. In this collection, we have broadened our field of vision to include not only art, but also photography, film, popular culture and news media imagery. We wanted to chart also the complicated, imbricated and interdependent relations between the legal, visual and aesthetic realms. We have included work that examines representations of law and legal events in visual forms, as well as articles that detail in specific ways some of law’s inadequate attempts to regulate or respond to the challenges of visual culture. There are articles and artworks that look at the role of the visual as evidence; of guilt, of ownership, of law, as well as speculations on the role of the visual as, or standing in for, law. Our aim, in this issue, is not to prescribe or delimit the kinds of trouble we had in mind, but to continue the dialogue between words and pictures, between pictures and pictures, between artists and scholars, between law and the visual — and we want that dialogue to continue beyond the covers of this journal.