Behind the Scenes – A Visit to the Face Factory

For those of us who work as Forensic Artists, either with a law enforcement agency, or as a business offering forensic services, each day brings new challenges.

When I worked full-time as a forensic artist, the main part of my job was creating composite sketches for detectives. Every so often I would receive a call for help with an unidentified body. Typically, it was a request for assistance with a street robbery, a non-fatal shooting or any other felony that happened to cross the desk of a big-city detective.

When I’m not working, I like to watch police programs. Sometimes, I find myself watching a fictitious forensic artist sitting in a quiet room working peacefully with an eyewitness, helping them create the face of someone who just finished brutalizing them.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t always happen that way.

So, I thought this month, I would dispel that image and take you behind the scenes and share my typical day with you. Follow me into my ‘face factory’ and see what it’s like being a full-time forensic artist.

My day begins by reading area newspapers and media reports of crimes occurring overnight in my area. Afterwards, I log into the computer and examine cases recently assigned to precinct detectives. Sometimes, I like to remind them that I’m available if needed. If I have a day where a request hasn’t found my inbox, I work on other projects.

For example, this month, I have a facial reconstruction that I am completing with the help of experts, using specialized 3d sculpting technology. After a couple of hours sculpting, I stop to prepare material for upcoming training. When finished, I consult with my software programmers who are putting the final touches on a bilingual version of our latest facial composite software program.

Just when I thought it was time to breath, an e-mail arrives from the media, or a new client has called asking for an age progression. Outside of my work as a forensic artist, I am also an author, so there are contracts to review, marketing to take care of and new cases to consider writing about.

As my day draws to a close, I’m left putting the finishing touches on soon to be completed projects, while considering new requests for services from law enforcement agencies and private entities. After an evening break to eat dinner and spend time with family, I head back to the office to check e-mails and contact international clients one more time before heading off to bed.

Busy? Yes. But, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

As you can see, there is so much more going on behind the scenes in the life of a forensic artist than what’s depicted on TV. Each day is different. Some activity you have control of, some you don’t.

Either way, I wanted to illuminate the work many of us are doing each day.

Now, every time you see a criminal face in the media, you know there is someone else’s face behind it. Who knows? Someday, it might be yours!