The Zone System


It is not a question of the passport matching you, but of you matching the passport.

In the project The Zone System we examine how, during the course of its short history, the essence of the photograph has changed shape from representation to reference, from being treated as a copy to being treated as an original.

Our study starts with criminal photography, where the earliest manifestations of this shift can be seen. When introduced to the field, photography served the function of registering captured criminals. It did not take long before its function changed character including a registration of all potential criminals; that is, “all citizens”. This shift, far from being a historical curiosity, shaped how photography has been used ever since. All forms of visual registration and surveillance can be traced back to these early police registers; reaching from school pictures to passports and video surveillance etc.

In order to portray this shift, we have produced a series of works that play with several of the key features of law-enforcement photography, such as passport photos, mug shots and facial composites. Our aim is to question both the foundations of the particular practice of law-enforcement photography as well as the limits of photographic representation in general.