Blawg Review #296: Images From The Criminal Law Blawgosphere
by Jamison Koehler on January 30, 2011
A professional photographer and artist once told me the story about trying to photograph his mother. He had hoped for a candid shot, and was initially resistant when she insisted on fixing her hair and putting on makeup first. On thinking about it further, he decided that an arranged photograph would say far more about his mother than any spontaneous image. A candid shot may show what the person happens to look like at that particular moment. But, by allowing the subject to play a role in staging the photograph and thus revealing how the subject would like to portray herself, the staged shot provides much more insight into who the subject actually is.
I thought about the photographer’s story as I was reading entries and trying to develop a theme for this week’s Blawg Review. I was intrigued, for example, by some of the photographs the blawgers choose as their public face: Did they go for the formal headshot? A more informal shot in casual clothes? Did they smile or adopt a serious expression?
For blawgers who chose such a professional shot, I was interested in obtaining an alternative image, something regular readers of their blawgs may not have seen before. Unlike the more staged pictures of the photographer’s mother, the only insights offered by the formal headshots many of us use on our websites are insights into the photographer himself. It is, after all, the photographer who tells the subject how to hold his head and where to look. I was also intrigued by the blawgers who don’t use any photograph at all, and decided to track down photographs of blawgers whose images are not readily available on the Internet.
Because the best blawgers all speak with a distinctive voice, my purpose in doing all of this was to try to make a connection between the image and the voice. Where you don’t have a mental image of the blawger, your mind tends to fill in the details as you listen to the voice. It is almost like going on a blind date: You want to know if the image of the blawger matches your expectations.
I begin with Jeff Gamso, who by all accounts is one of the best blawgers in the criminal defense field. A self-described ACLU and anti-death penalty guy, Gamso writes passionately and persuasively about these issues. Gamso is a former English professor, and he knows how to begin his entries with a hook. Opening lines from blog entries this week alone include: “Violence is as American as cherry pie” and Nobody wanted him to be killed. Well, almost nobody.” Or: “You think you can stop killing by banning handguns. Think again.”
That Gamso was extremely reluctant to provide me with a photograph also says something about Gamso’s modesty and humility. Mark Bennett pointed out six months ago how Gamso didn’t even mention his role in getting the Ohio Supreme Court to strike down as unconstitutional the state’s sex-offender-registration statute. As Bennett put it: “Most lawyers will never get a statute held unconstitutional. If I ever do, you can bet I will let you know it.”
Gamso posted this week about the use of an unmanned “spy blimp” for police surveillance in Ogden, Utah. He wrote about Leroy White, a man on death row in Alabama whose inexperienced lawyer missed a critical deadline for federal court appeal. He also offered a mea culpa to Judge Stacy Cook for mischaracterizing some of her actions.
Scott “Get Off My Lawn” Greenfield is famous in the blawgosphere for his curmudgeonly ways. Although I have always admired his writing, it did take me a while to understand and appreciate his crankiness. In nominating Simple Justice for the ABA Blawg 100 for 2010, Nathaniel Burney of Criminal Lawyer probably put it best when he said that Greenfield “has no patience for whiners, entitled millenials, and those who think Twitter and Web design are substitutes for experience and ability.” But, Burney added, “even when he’s seemingly on a rant, you can’t help but feel he’s winking at you.” Mark Draughn of Windy Pundit has also written a clever piece on how to survive Greenfield.
Of the options available to me, I chose a candid photograph of Greenfield dressed like a Rastafarian, which I think was taken by Eric Turkewitz of New York Personal Injury Lawyer, because it shows a lighter, almost playful side to Greenfield.