ROCHESTER, N.Y.- George Eastman House cross-examines crime scene photography television-style, with a new exhibition Law & Order: Crime Scenes, taking the stand through April 10. More than 30 images from the hit NBC series, captured by official Law & Order photographer Jessica Burstein, will be displayed alongside actual Law & Order props, including crime scene objects, marked scripts, special-effect imitation body parts, and specialized synthetic wounds. This George Eastman House exhibition will be the first museum exhibition of Bursteins work.
The exhibition also will include a memorial to actor Jerry Orbach, star of Law & Order for 12 seasons, who died in late December. The entrance to the exhibition will feature Mr. Orbachs directors chair, with his name painted on canvas, from the Law & Order set, as well as a written tribute by Burstein and four photographs of Mr. Orbach she produced, including one that was his favorite.
Law & Order, now in its 15th season, is the longest-running drama series currently on network television. Burstein has been shooting the series 11 seasons. "When I began the crime scenes project, I consciously set out to test the perception of illusion and reality in photography," Burstein said. "Simply put, it was my intention, with these images, to create trompe loeil to fool or to deceive the eye. Law & Order offered me a unique opportunity to do this, most specifically because of the veracity with which its crime scenes are realized."
The exhibition has been created by George Eastman House, in conjunction with Burstein, under the direction of Julia Unruh Kracke, George Eastman House manager of exhibitions and program design. Bursteins work, in collaboration with Law & Order series creator Dick Wolf, was published in a book of the same name in 2003 by Barnes & Noble. In the books opening essay, Wolf notes that he originally wished for Law & Order to be a black-and-white series, rather than screened in color. "It has been many years, but, here, finally, is the way Law & Order was meant to be seen. In black and white."
In the exhibition, narratives by Burstein will tell back-lot stories behind her photographs, such as the "dead body" who had to convince New York City passers-by that she truly was not injured, or the shoot that forced actors Jerry Orbach and Jesse L. Martin to stifle their laughter when delivering lines while staring at a mop-haired dummy pulled from the Hudson River.
"In contrast to the fluid nature of filming, the greatest power of the still photograph is that it is of the moment that it is fixed and frozen in time," Burstein explained. "From within the structural procedure (and limitations) of Law & Order, the challenge for me was to try to quickly find and grab a singular moment, with its own unmediated integrity, that would carry sufficient impact.
"Thus, while the Law & Order audience may recognize the crime scenes, they are not, explicitly, what was seen on screen," she continued. "And while, admittedly, I often failed to achieve my stated goal, I am hoping that those who view the exhibition at George Eastman House may, perhaps, see dimension in the flat surface of the photographic prints may, perhaps, see my successes."
Also featured in the exhibition will be a bank of television monitors screening the Law & Order opening sequences which feature the crime scenes depicted in the photographs on display with each televised sequence segueing into the familiar Law & Order theme song . . .
About Jessica Burstein - Jessica Burstein was the first female staff photographer at NBC, joining the network in 1974. Her work has appeared in numerous publications worldwide, including Time, Newsweek, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Paris Match, Stern, as well as TV Guide, Entertainment Weekly, Vanity Fair, Rolling Stone, People, New York, and Bon Appetit. Bursteins still photography has been seen on television in productions such as Frontline and The Today Show. Her portraiture is in the permanent corporate collections of JPMorgan Chase Bank, Philip Morris, and Time Warner. In 1994, Burstein became the official photographer for Wolf Films, which is responsible for, among other television series, the Law & Order franchise. In addition to the book Law & Order: Crime Scenes, Burstein published in 2000 the book The Grandmother Book: A Celebration of Family with her sister, journalist Patricia Burstein. Jessica Burstein lives in New York City.