William Crawford’s Forensic Foraging

power shovel parked in front of church

Most things, no matter how trite and mundane, have intrinsic beauty or interest when presented in just the proper way. This is the core premise underlying Forensic Foraging, an alternative technique for digital photography. This emerging motif employs the same throwback principles that made color photography great during the heyday of the New York School, perhaps beginning as early as the 1940’s with Saul Leiter.

cluttered back seat of VW Beetle
Cluttered Back Seat of VW Beetle

Creative framing, high contrast, and very heavy color saturation are key elements. Moreover, the forage, borrowed from early forensic crime scene photography, employs the intense sifting, sorting, and shooting of all available subject matter.

three brooms leaning against door



The objective is to unlock hidden beauty or at least to reveal the less obvious elements of interest. Sweeping minimalist wanderlust was first unleashed by Stephen Shore in groundbreaking color images published in American Surfaces and Uncommon Places. These works remain the Holy Grail for Forensic Foraging.

There might appear to be little of value in chronicling the cluttered back seat of a VW or in capturing brooms propped helter skelter against an urban wall. However, color, texture, framing, and funky content somehow conjure up questions for the viewer about such images.





Forensic Foraging does not seek to provide hard and fast answers. It rather provides a paradigm to ask questions that might have otherwise slipped by unnoticed. It seeks an alternative viewpoint.

tenement building illuminated by setting sun
Golden Hour, Tempe, Arizona


food truck vendor
Food Truck Vendor

This variable perspective is achieved using time tested, seminal photographic techniques. I mostly eschew tack sharp digital images, embellished by extensive computer post processing. In many ways, this new genre produces classic, film-like images, even while utilizing modern digital equipment.

Forensic Foraging is joined at the hip with street photography. Spontaneous portraits like North Bronx Lovers allow the forage to capture the heartbeat of the city. The iconic work of Walker Evans and Robert Frank lives on in this nuanced approach to digital shooting. Old techniques yield stellar portraits of today’s urban life. Minimalist photography is my bread and butter. Less for me often yields more as I strive to unlock the unseen.

man and woman talking in front of bright blue wall
Sidewalk Confab
Man and woman with sunglasses holding each other
North Bronx Lovers
















I still shoot a bit of monochrome with Forensic Foraging. This is a continued nod to the monumental work of Evans and Frank. It is also homage to the great combat photographers who mentored me during the Jungle War. Tri-X film was the rule in Vietnam, and I have learned to mimic it with today’s digital equipment.


spray painted lips on cinder block wall

William C. Crawford
William C. Crawford is a social worker, writer, and photographer who lives in Winston Salem, North Carolina. He was a grunt, and later, a combat photojournalist in Vietnam, learning his craft from one of the best—Associated Press war photographer Ollie Noonan. Crawford’s memoir, Just Like Sunday On The Farm, is available at Amazon. It includes photographs by Ollie Noonan and Specialist 4 Bill Crawford: photofreshusa.sharefile.com. Contact Crawford at bcraw44@gmail.com or visit ForensicForaging.com.
photo by Andrew Dye/Winston-Salem Journal

Featured photo above Ghost Town Find

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