Special Photographs - NSW Police Forensic Photography archive (Justice & Police Museum Collection)




A collection of around 2500 glass plate negatives (plus some cellulose negatives) documenting police suspects, offenders and detainees; taken by Sydney police between 1910 and the early 1930s.

This collection of portraits created by New South Wales Police Department photographers between 1910 and 1930, have been designated "special photographs", to distinguish them from the genre of prison mug shots. They 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 characteristics." These beautiful, evocative portraits follow few conventions of the standard mug shot photograph. This collection include portraits of well-known Sydney identities, including John Frederick 'Chow' Hayes and Guidio Calletti, notorious criminals active in Sydney's razor gang era.

Item level entries can located in HHT Pictures Catalogue link provided above.


1910 to c1930; Crime; Criminal identification; Men's clothing and accessories; Mug shot; Police detainees and suspects; Policing; Portraits; Women's clothing and accessories


Coverage Spatial

Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Coverage Temporal



Related Collections


2012-05-30 23:40