“Ocular Proof”: Photographs as Legal Evidence

  • Rodney G.S. Carter


This article traces the rules governing the admissibility of photographs into evidence in the courts of law of Canada, the United States, and Britain. The discussion is grounded in the nineteenth-century discourse of photographic objectivity, and examples of case law and legislation are cited to show the evolving response of the courts. The legal understanding of photographic evidence is examined from the late nineteenth century onward, and the twenty-first-century concerns surrounding the authenticity and admissibility of digital photographs are highlighted.


Ce texte retrace les règlements qui gouvernent l’admissibilité des photographies en tant que preuves dans les cours de justice au Canada, aux États-Unis et en Grande-Bretagne. L’auteur base son analyse sur le discours de l’objectivité photographique du XIXe siècle, et des exemples de jurisprudence et de législation sont utilisés pour montrer l’évolution de la réponse des tribunaux. Il examine la valeur légale de la preuve photographique à partir de la fin du XIXe siècle jusqu’à présent, en soulignant les préoccupations du XXIe siècle par rapport à l’authenticité et à l’admissibilité de la photographie numérique.

Author Biography

Rodney G.S. Carter

Rodney G.S. Carter is the Archivist for the St. Joseph Region of the Religious Hospitallers of St. Joseph, based in Kingston, Ontario. He received an Honours BA in Art History from Queen’s University in 2002 and a Masters degree in Information Studies (Archival Stream), from the University of Toronto in 2005. He has served on a number of committees and special interest sections of the Association of Canadian Archivists and is currently the Vice-President of the ACA.

How to Cite
Carter, Rodney G.S. 2010. “‘Ocular Proof’: Photographs As Legal Evidence”. Archivaria 69 (May), 23-47. https://www.archivaria.ca/index.php/archivaria/article/view/13260.