One of the most unpleasant and complicated tasks for law enforcement personnel is dealing with deceased bodies for whom no immediate means of identification can be found. Postmortem imaging is a method of forensic art done when bodies are in good enough condition for the artist to develop a reasonable likeness based on morgue or crime scene photographs or by viewing the body. In and of itself, resemblance of a postmortem image to a missing person’s photo is not a means of positively identifying the body. The primary purpose of such images is to generate a comparison when the name of a potential match has been developed. Medical records of that missing person can then be compared to the body and lead to a legally valid positive identification. The forensic artist is the “middle man” in the process.
Forensic artists who do this work must develop knowledge of the physical and biochemical changes that occur postmortem in order to effectively re-animate the face in their artwork.