November-December 2014 … The Global Online Magazine of Arts, Information & Entertainment … Volume 10, Number 6
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Photo Editor’s Choice / March-April 2014

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 the PHOTOGRAPHY spot

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070 All photographs © Justice & Police Museum

Special Photograph no. 203A. Thomas Bede was charged with ‘suborn a witness’ at Sydney Quarter Sessions on 11 December 1928, for which he was fined £8. No other details known.

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City of Shadows

Sydney police photographs 1920-1950

In the early part of the 20th century police routinely went to places that respectable people did their best to avoid, the dark places where bad things happened. They were just doing their job – asking questions, taking photographs, writing reports. But now, nearly a century later, the fruit of that footwork offers us the most extraordinary and intimate record of the more troubled sides of everyday life in early 20th-century Australia.

The series includes around 2500 “special photographs” taken by New South Wales Police Department photographers between 1910 and 1930. These “special photographs” were mostly taken in the cells at the Central Police Station, Sydney, and are, as curator Peter Doyle explains, of “men and women recently plucked from the street, often still animated by the dramas surrounding their apprehension.” Doyle suggests that, compared with the subjects of prison mug shots, “the subjects of the Special Photographs seem to have been allowed – perhaps invited – to position and compose themselves for the camera as they liked. Their photographic identity thus seems constructed out of a potent alchemy of inborn disposition, personal history, learned habits and idiosyncrasies, chosen personal style (haircut, clothing, accessories) and physical characteristic.”

-Sydney Living Museums 

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127The quartet pictured were arrested over a robbery at the home of bookmaker in April of 1921. Three of the four were convicted, and received sentences of fifteen months each.

014Mug shot of Daphne Barker  in 1923. Details are unknown.

051It is likely the women were photographed simply because they were found in the company of known criminals.

019A cropped print of this photograph appears in a police photo book from the 1920s, annotated in pencil “magsmen”, with no further information offered. 

124Mug shot of Ronald Frederick Schmidt in June, 1921. Details are unknown.

048Alfred Ladewig, alias Wallace charged on provisional warrant with stealing by trick the sum of £204.

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bookcover_1

 

 

Published by: Historic Houses Trust of NSW

240 pages | Hardback

Author : Peter Doyle with Caleb Williams

Isbn: 9781876991203

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Get the City of Shadows book here 

Information about the exhibition at Sydney Living Museums

Link to the blog and archive