An Appeal to Forensic Artists:
What do I mean “bring clarity to a missing person?” No, I don’t mean gather more information to solve the case; I don’t mean bring resolution; I don’t mean getting media exposure for the case.; I’m not referring to providing financial resources or respite for families…. These are all wonderful goals for which we can strive. However, in this case, I literally mean clarity of the visual variety.
It has always baffled me how for some cold cases, we are forced to circulate an old well-worn photograph which is so fuzzy to be nearly useless. If we can’t even decipher the victim’s face, how can we possibly envision age progression to the current date? How can we assist families who no longer have adequate photos to circulate? I have been criticized for circulating “fuzzy photos.” To that I say, don’t shoot the messenger! ‘ Not my fault; ‘Not anyone’s fault.
So, what are the options for families who have that one photo that represents their loved one from long ago?
There are several image progression tools that you can download from an application. Some examples within the following list may be applicable to use for your missing loved one.
Image Progression Tools
You can view yourself via age progression with help from tools based on an actual image of yourself. Here are some of the recommended applications:
- age-me.com: Upload a photo of yourself, and then watch as it is aged before your eyes. You can even set different factors that might influence the way you age. An interesting way to consider your own path of aging, and how it will affect your looks.
- PhotoShop: You probably will not be surprised to learn that PhotoShop offers the ability to show age progression. This handy tutorial shows you how to make it happen.
- Face of the Future: You can look and see how you might change over the years. Upload your own picture and see how you are likely to change in the future. A great, free tool that provides you with interesting insight.
- MyWebFace: You can see your age progression with this animation. Turn yourself into a cartoon figure — and then watch that figure age. Also helps you turn it into an avatar that you can use on your profile pages.
- In20Years.com: Cool age progression tool that allows you to age yourself by 20 years. Upload your photo, and then get an idea of how you will look after 20 years have passed.
- ThatsMyFace: Transform your face. See your face in 3D, see yourself as older and even create personalized gifts and merchandise using this web tool. One of the funnest options is creating a personalized action figure using your face.
- Face Transformer: Use this webtool from the Perception Laboratory to change how you look. Cool tool also lets you change race or sex on top of age. You can also place yourself in a famous painting, or even see what you look like as a Manga character.
- GIMP: You can manipulate pictures, including based on age, using the GNU program that allows you to accomplish interesting feats with your face. Helpful and fun
- Portrait Professional: Lets you change images and more. You can also add age, on top of being able to retouch and enhance photos.
- HourFace: This is actually an iPhone app that allows you to age an image. You can do even do it by the hour, to see how much older you can look in one day.
- Your Shape Picture Progress: Helps you take pictures over time, and then create a movie showing your progression. Can help you track weight loss, as well as your age progression.
- Make-Me-Old: If you don’t mind paying a subscription fee, you can use this age progression software to see how you will look as you get older. Claims to use FBI grade software to age you.
- PhoJoe: This photo art service can help with age progression. However, it is quite pricey, since it is considered forensic art.
Another option which could potentially assist crime victims a great deal, would be the assistance of a forensic artist to volunteer their services in recreating a current likeness of the missing person.
However, it appears that there are not many forensic artists who have the extra time or motivation to lend their services without compensation. (I have reached out a couple of times online without success.) Recent estimates reveal that there are less than 100 full-time forensic artists in the country. A majority of artists are freelancers hired by departments or active-duty officers or other agency employees who are called in when needed. “Twenty or so sketches year, are still not enough work to justify keeping a full-time artist on the payroll.”
According to three veteran forensic artists interviewed for the publication MentalFloss.com in May 2017, the following information was offered:
1) Melissa Cooper, a freelance forensic artist based in California, says that all of our senses matter when creating a sketch. For example, asking questions about smells can trigger memory recall for other features. If you recall the cologne, you perhaps can recall other details.
2) Trying to create an exact likeness might make a sketch less likely to resonate with the public. If there’s one thing wrong, one detail, they’ll say, ‘Oh, that’s not my buddy,’” Cooper says. “When it’s more sketchy, more scribbled, you’re leaving more open to interpretation.” Therefore, according to Lisa Bailey, Author of “Ask a Forensic Artist,” Forensic Artists necessity keep their own self-expression and artistry out of it, not adding information that would create a ‘prettier’ image that could lead someone away from recognition.”
3)The skull says so much, according to Melissa Cooper, “It can tell you where the eyes angled, where the nostrils went where the eyebrows were. Given the choice of a photo of a corpse that’s decomposing or a skull, I’d take the skull.”
4) Some detectives are reluctant to use sketches, as they are wary to rely on the memory of witnesses;
5) Sometimes a forensic artist completes a sketch in order to corroborate a lead for a suspect they already know.
6) “Don’t forget the ears” – Most people don’t pay attention to ears. As an aid, there are manuals with ear samples to assist witnesses when creating a sketch.
7) “ Other body parts”… Some reconstructions include a slight smile in order to expose unusual dentition – a crooked tooth, etc. When working with a decomposed – featureless body in the woods, artists are actually assisted by looking in nearby bird nests, as they love to collect hair for the building of their nests!
A Personal Appeal – With this information as a backdrop, I ask once again if there might be a forensic artist reading this blog who would lend their time to selected homicide -missing person cases sorely in need of a new image.
Two cases in point from Connecticut-
Missing From:New Haven, CT
Age at Disappearance: 42
Date of Birth: 05/24/62
Weight: 125 lbs
Scars,Marks Tattoos: Tattoo of a “rose” or “butterfly” on possible right shoulder, scar on leg, upper dentures.
Clothing: Possibly carrying a black pocket-book.
Circumstances of Disappearance:
After a court appearance, Evelyn was never seen again. Evelyn was last seen in the New Haven, CT area.
New Haven Police Department
If you have any information on this case please contact CUE Center For Missing Persons using the contact form below or contact Cue Center at (910) 343-1131 24 hour tipline (910) 232-1687.
All information submitted to CUE Center For Missing Persons is confidential.
Nickname: Mary Poo
Disappeared from: 25 Wakeman Hill Rd- Sherman, CT
Age at Disappearance: 53
Date of Birth: 3/11/46
Missing Person | Homicide Victim
Circumstances of Disappearance:
Unknown. Mary was last seen at her residence in the vicinity of the 20 block of Wakeman Rd. Her husband stated that when he returned home from work, she was missing. Most of her belongings were also missing, although her vehicle was still at her residence with the windshield smashed in. Foul play is suspected. A $50,000 reward is being offered by the state of Connecticut for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person(s) responsible for Mary’s disappearance and/or homicide.
Connecticut State Police
Western District Major Crime Squad
Or the CUE CENTER FOR MISSING PERSONS-(910) 232-1687 -24 Hour Line Tip line
Thanks for this article, it is very informative. I am not aware of the services in USA. However, I know that in Canada, the NCMPUR Operations offers specialized services to police across Canada for computer age progression of missing children and facial approximation (facial reconstruction) from a recovered skull. Here is a link to further description of these services: http://www.canadasmissing.ca/services/index-eng.htm#fa-pa
Many thanks Maureen for your interest and compliment. I also so appreciate that you shared this Canadian resource which I have also shared on my social media. Hope you’ll consider becoming a subscriber! Sincerely, Ladyjustice