Images in/of Law

14 Pages Posted: 11 Oct 2012 Last revised: 12 Oct 2012

Jessica M. Silbey

Northeastern University School of Law

Date Written: 2012


The proliferation of images in and of law lends itself to surprisingly complex problems of epistemology and power. Understanding through images is innate; most of us easily understand images without thinking. But arriving at mutually agreeable understandings of images is also difficult. Translating images into shared words leads to multiple problems inherent in translation and that pose problems for justice. Despite our saturated imagistic culture, we have not established methods to pursue that translation process with confidence. This article explains how images are intuitively understood and yet collectively inscrutable, posing unique problems for resolving legal conflicts that demand common and shared language. It canvasses the law and film scholarship, provides examples of film evidence that renders judgment problematic, and predicts future legal terrain in which visual images will feature prominently. It concludes by calling for a theory of aesthetics in order to analyze and interpret the visual images that will take center stage in so many contemporary legal debates.

Keywords: film, evidence, law and humanities, constitutional law, gaming, cultural study of law, intellectual property, virtual reality

Suggested Citation

Silbey, Jessica M., Images in/of Law (2012). New York Law School Law Review, Vol. 57, p. 171, 2012/13; Suffolk University Law School Research Paper No. 12-37. Available at SSRN:

Jessica M. Silbey (Contact Author)

Northeastern University School of Law ( email )

416 Huntington Avenue
Boston, MA 02115
United States

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