In the past few decades, courtroom artists have sketched an enraged, pencil-wielding Charles Manson diving across the aisles, aiming for the judge; Tupac Shakur taking the stand with a fresh set of bullet wounds; and handcuffs locked around Lindsay Lohan’s wrists as she waltzes into custody wearing Louboutins.
Since the Salem witch trials of 1692, over a century before the first photograph was snapped, artists have swiftly rendered sensitive and high-profile proceedings for an eagerly awaiting public. But why, over 300 years later—and in an age where everyone carries a camera in their pocket—do old-fashioned drawings remain the main way we document memorable moments in court?
“One would think in the 21st century, with very sophisticated cameras, that people would want the camera, and it’s just the opposite,” says Mona Shafer Edwards, a fashion illustrator-turned-courtroom artist who, since 1978, has been especially beloved for her depictions of women in the courtroom—from Lohan to a guitar-playing Dolly Parton. “Every year I would think, ‘Okay, this is the year I’m finished,’ and it keeps going.”