Sunday 29 July 2018

Rogues’ Gallery: The Specials

Moi, Roguish? Just Special!

After a satisfying yum cha today with friends, Mr Pipistrello and I wandered down to the Museum of Sydney to see the soon-to-close exhibition, Underworld: Mugshots From The Roaring Twenties. The Classic Police Mugshot had settled into the formal front-and-side profile formula around the world from the 1880s, but for a brief window in Sydney in the 1920s when a keen amateur photographer, Constable George Howard, took the Rogues' Gallery down a unique aesthetic path, recording local underworld players with images known as The Specials. Suspects were free to pose as they chose, à la studio portraiture. Whilst most people would not be accomplished in front of the camera, back in the day, these very natural and attractive photographs make for particular, character-laden mugshots:

Impish Petty Crims

It's All About The Hair!

Messrs Suave & Co.

Sydney's Answer to Peaky Blinders?

Another Charming Special

Relaxed & Comfortable

Harry High-Pants, Suspected of Wilful & Indecent Exposure. Of Course!

Another Flasher & Thief who asked the jury to think like Passionate Frenchmen. Acquitted!
A Minor looking Well Pleased with his Life Choices

Let's not forget the Glamorous Ladies!

Cheeky Fashionista

Striking a Nonchalant Pose

Dear Edna, who tried a bit of cheque forgery to pay for her Flapper Lifestyle!

If your Life of Crime leads you to enter the Rogues' Gallery, ask to join the criminally chic Specials!



    1. Thanks, Contessa! Apart from a few thuggish scowlers (including some Mafiosi) I chose not to include, most seem rather pleased to be photographed!! Xx

  2. What a fantastic set of photos. Yes, they do seem rather pleased with themselves! Were their crimes recorded with each of the photos and were they in groups because they worked together? They are fascinating social documents, I would love to know all the stories.

    1. Hello! Yes, they are fascinating insights into crime history, especially given the long tradition of at times rather petty crime leading to convicts washing up on Australia's shores. Where the records have survived, there was a note about the suspects' offences, of which some would have been acquitted, and sometimes a bit of a backstory to a particularly colourful character.

      The group mugshots were indeed of criminals who were picked up together - and thus had a chance to get their stories straight! There was one shot with 13 "known card sharks and confidence tricksters", including two women, who were "suspected of being in a house frequented by thieves"! I love all the stylish hats, too. One mugshots was of a man who later escaped from police and his description in the newspapers emphasised that at that time he had no hat!

      Thank you for stopping by and I hope to see you again!


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