In March 2005, Linda and Charlotte Mulhall, two sisters from Dublin, killed their mother’s boyfriend and dismembered his corpse. After slicing off his head and penis, they dumped the remains in Dublin’s Royal Canal, earning the nickname "Scissor Sisters" with the press.
The murder inspired French artist Delphine Balley, at the time in residence in Ireland, to create "True Stories", a series of photographic works based on the reconstruction of crime scenes.
Balley's reconstructions came from old illustrated newspapers, and the more salacious elements of the popular press, where "crimes were illustrated with very realistic drawings of the drama, like a mum throwing her kids out of the window", remembers Balley. Further inspiration comes from Félix Fénéon, a 19th century columnist for the French newspaper Le Matin, and the works of American poet Charles Reznilkof.
The development of photography signalled the end of the illustrated newpaper, and with it, illustrations of criminals in the act. A camera has no imagination. So, as the artist points out, crime-scene photographs can only show the aftermath of a crime, not the crime itself. Newspaper reports of a murder might be accompanied by a picture of the victim's family at a birthday party, for instance.
"Photos don’t necessarily represent the climax of the story", Balley explains, "but rather a time just prior or after it. We never see the crime represented overtly in the photos, but it is present somewhere, as the image represents a moment in the stream of time”. So Balley’s project interrogates the relationship between press photos of crime and the actual crimes that have been committed, and her detailed mises en scenes bring the true story of the crime to life.
Shooting "True Stories", requires tremendous research and planning, not to mention props, location and cast. Above all, these nearly theatrical productions need perfect balance. Says Balley, “I try to find a place that mediates between reality and fiction”.
Delphine Balley is represented by the Gallery Suzanne Tarasiece, Paris.