Eyes on Law: Making legal research, law and justice visible
'Photography is a weapon which we can use and which can be used against us.’
'Signposting justice'. Photograph taken by Zoe Economides presents a location where justice is re-located and questions are posed about where it is to be found and how one gets there.
Law and legal narrative is normally written, understood and communicated by lawyers through the medium of the text. In this interesting essay, Kim Economides and Zoe Economides ask whether photography can successfully capture alternative representations of law and legal consciousness in novel ways that might facilitate the education of lawyers and the wider public.
The authors believe that photography, with its power to shape and interpret popular culture, holds considerable untapped potential to contribute to public legal education, first by revealing obscure citizen perceptions of law outside the courts; and, second, by re-defining how the public might engage more creatively with the legal system of the future.
Justice departments normally select formal rather than informal images of justice when choosing visual content for official publications in order to maintain social and physical distance between the public and the legal profession. However, more creative ways of representing justice could be used that invite citizens to see law not as something that disciplines them but rather as a tool that could assist in the pursuit of their social or economic goals - something not to be feared but rather as a resource to be used.
'Court’s (in)action?' Photograph by Zoe Economides illustrating the potential of creative photography to challenge popular stereotypes of courts by highlighting the rapidly changing context of law in modern society.
The essay concludes by saying that professional and amateur photographers have a new role in promoting public legal education. They can help replace traditional images of justice with more imaginative, even humorous interpretations that use colour, manipulation and marketing techniques to make law less intimidating and more attractive to the wider public.
'We therefore see an interesting role for both professional and amateur photographers in deconstructing official images of justice and substituting these with new images that portray different roles for lawyers and judges in a more democratic society.'
'Eyes on Law: Making Legal Research, Law and Justice Visible' was published in 'Making Research Visible to the World'. Editors H. Westgeest et al, Canon Foundation in Europe, Amstelveen, The Netherlands, 2010, pp. 86-89.
1. Quote above is taken from 'Understanding a photograph' written by John Berger in 1972. In full it reads:
'We think of photographs as works of art, as evidence of a particular truth, as likenesses as news items. Every photograph is in fact a means of testing, confirming and constructing a total view of reality. Hence the crucial role of photography in ideological struggle. Hence the necessity of our understanding a weapon which we can use and which can be used against us.'
2. Professor Kim Economides became the Dean of Law at Flinders Law School, Adelaide in August 2012.