Views of violence – Images as evidentiary, documentary and affective

The Views of Violence project produces knowledge about how images of violence influence accountability, justice and work for human rights, focusing particularly on the significance of how, why and by whom the images were produced.

The project contends that locations of cameras, intentions behind filming and modes of filming – what the project calls 'views of violence' – matters. Through ethnographic work and in collaboration with pioneering civil society organisations in the field, namely Bellingcat, Mnemonic, WITNESS, International Media Support (IMS) and Amnesty International's Crisis Evidence Lab, the project examines how views of violence affect the way the images are used to establish knowledge in journalistic, legal and social justice contexts. The project works with cases which are selected in collaboration with project partners to ensure attention to a variety of geographical contexts, types of violence, types of documentation and phases of images engagement.


This ethnographic project explores engagements with images of violence, not only as visual documentation, but also as part of the very violence. In collaboration with leading civil society organisations working with visual documentation and human rights, the project seeks to unpack what different views of violence means for how we establish what took place in violent incidents, both in legal and public contexts. Paying attention to who documents and why and how they document, the project addresses the following questions: How are images of violence produced, and how do the modes of production as well as the intentions and perspectives of documenters influence the ways these images are used to establish knowledge across documentary, evidentiary and affective contexts? How are violent events attempted exposed or concealed by implicated actors across empirical settings and what does this exposure and concealment tell us about perceptions of righteousness of violence?



Sara Creta, postdoc

Questions of how to establish truth through images have become pressing in newsrooms across the globe as affordances of new communication technologies have altered the construction of authority, authenticity, access and moral responsibility in different forms of witnessing acts (Nash 2018, Rae et al. 2018, Reading 2009). In arguing for the agency of the image, Zelizer (1998, 10) suggests that any practice of bearing witness compound with the ambiguities around the status of looking; it refers to practices through which ‘we assume responsibility for the events of our times’. This embodies a vision that presumes power inequalities of access, resources or representation in bearing witness to historical events and documenting collective trauma. With an emphasis on new forms of storytelling, sub-project 1 explores how views of violence relate to acts of bearing witness and the establishment of journalistic knowledge. Empirically, sub-project 1 investigates local open-source investigations in newsrooms in a country marked by political transition, elections or conflict around the Horn of Africa. The specific location will be determined based on relevance, access and security. Sub-project 1 further follows images through fieldwork and collaboration with specialised journalistic visual investigations units in other locations. Creta draws on her previous work with journalists in the Horn of Africa  and leading international open source investigators.


Stefan Tarnowski, postdoc

A new evidentiary paradigm, akin to the combination of bureaucratic documents and testimony used in the Nuremberg Trials, has signalled a shift (Koenig 2020, 42) from the ‘era of the witness’ (Wieviorka 2006) towards more ‘material’ forms of evidence, such as objects, images and code (Keenan and Weizman 2012, Weizman 2017). The Syrian war is the first major test of the digital forensic method and its potential to hold those in power accountable. Mnemonic's Syrian Archive works to turn open-source and other visual imagery into legally felicitous evidence for future war crimes tribunals through a ‘counter-’ or ‘digital’ forensic methodology. Sub-project 2 unifies the technical (Deutch and Habal 2018), legal (Dubberley et al. 2020a), political (Kersten 2016) and theoretical (Weizman 2017) possibilities and limitations for using open-source content and digital forensic methods for international justice by following images through different stages of preparation and court cases.  Sub-project 2 thus explores how views of violence matter in the process of turning visual content into legally felicitous evidence. Empirically, sub-project 2 focuses on different stages of the process through ethnographic fieldwork with Syrian Archive, focusing on their investigation into hospital bombings.  Sub-project 2 follows the hospital bombing case as it is submitted to the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism in Geneva, the International Criminal Court in The Hague, or a ‘third country’ court claiming universal jurisdiction. Further,  sub-project 2 follows progressed trials with visual evidence of violence. Tarnowski draws on his previous work on images as evidence and fieldwork with Syrian Archive.


Nina Grønlykke Mollerup, PI

Images have affective value and can play a role in human judgement in ways that might be related to facticity of images and the evidence they provide, but which is not restricted by it. As Barthes' (1982) pensive images, images of violence work with the imagination, which can in itself become a form of evidence (Sliwinski 2018). The emotional, persuasive and mnemonic power of images renders them particularly relevant in the context of justice (Martínez 2018). In this sense, aesthetics can be seen as a specific mode of thought, a special type of human judgment in which spectators rely on their feelings as authority (Sliwinski 2011). Sub-project 3 explores how views of violence relate to the affective work of images across legal, journalistic and social justice contexts. Empirically, sub-project 3 bridges the other sub-projects by engaging with at least one site of each of the other sub-projects while focusing on the affective work of images in the context of documentary and evidentiary image engagements. Sub-project 3 further explores how images are used to mobilise political and social action through a crowd-sourced case with Amnesty's Crisis Evidence Lab and a documentary film production in IMS' documentary programme. Mollerup draws on her previous work with activists, documentarists and rights organisations in the context of images of violence.




Professor Thomas Keenan, Bard College

Adjunct professor Alexa Koenig, UC Berkeley

Associate professor Zeynep Gürsel, Rutgers University

Assistant professor Sandra Ristovska, University of Colorado, Boulder

Dr. Dima Saber, Meedan

Associate professor Andreas Bandak, University of Copenhagen


The images in the collage above are produced, collected, archived and published by a host of different actors, including 858 An Archive of Resistance/Mosireen, Syrian Archive, Sudanese Archive, Yemeni Archive, Aleppo Media Center, Library of Congress, A Refugee Archive in the Making of a History of the Syrian War, US police body- and dashcams, the Free Sanaa campaign as well as ourselves. Each image poses different issues in terms of legal and moral rights. We use these images here having assessed that each individual use is fair and ethical in this context, but we recognise that legal and moral image rights are extremely complex and often inherently conflictual.

If you consider yourself to hold moral or legal rights to any of the images used above and in any way disagree with our use or would like recognition, please reach out to project leader, Nina Grønlykke Mollerup (



If you are a student, researcher or practitioner working with similar issues, please feel free to get in touch with any of us.







Independent Research Fund Denmark (DFF) Sapere Aude

Project period: 2023 - 2026

PI: Nina Grønlykke Mollerup


Name Title Phone E-mail
Creta, Sara Postdoc +4535332121 E-mail
Mollerup, Nina Grønlykke Associate Professor +4535326079 E-mail
Tarnowski, Jan Stefan Postdoc +4535329284 E-mail