by Maria Sofou

Back in the day, when technological progress was still in its early stages, in coroner and law enforcement offices there was only one way to produce a facial reconstruction of unidentifiable victims: forensic artists would create mold sculptures from their skeletal remains.

Photographer Arne Svenson travelled around the USA and Mexico, capturing really intriguing portraits of these sculptures for his series “Unspeaking Likeness”. The way Svenson shot his unique models gives them a shocking sense of vitality, leading to a really captivating result.

The artist himself speaks about his project on his site: Unspeaking Likeness is a series of photographs of forensic facial reconstruction sculptures. These sculptures are commissioned by various law enforcement agencies and used for the purposes of establishing the identity of victims of suspected violent crime whose soft tissue facial features have been obliterated by either trauma or the passage of time. I traveled around the USA and Mexico photographing these objects, treating them as live beings of whom I was taking a portrait. My point of focus was the eyes; I left the rest of the face to fall out of focus so as to better speak to the anonymity of the victim and the malleability of their existence.”