Candid Mugshots of Dapper Criminals from the 1920s (30 pictures)

Between 1910 and 1930, a series of 2500 ‘special photographs’ were taken by the New South Wales Police Department. As curator Peter Doyle of the Justice & Police Museum in Sydney explains:

These ‘special photographs’ were mostly taken in the cells at the Central Police Station in Sydney and are of men and women recently plucked from the street, often still animated by the dramas surrounding their ‘apprehension’. 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.

In this final installment, we look at both male and female criminals mostly from the 1920s with a handful from 1930. What is most interesting are not only the artistic qualities of the vintage portraits, but the stories and tales of crime that accompany most mugshots below.

If you’re intrigued by this collection, curator Peter Doyle has published two books on the subject entitled, City of Shadows: Sydney Police Photography 1912-1948 (Hardback, 240 pages) and Crooks Like Us (Flexicover 320 pages).

If you’re in the Sydney area, you can also drop by the Justice & Police Museum (Cnr Albert and Phillip Streets, Circular Quay, Sydney, NSW 2000) from now until 30 June 2014 and see the City of Shadows exhibit. Entry to City of Shadows in free with museum entry which costs $10 for adults, $5 for children, and $20 for families.

For more information on all of Sydney’s ‘Living Museums’, visit

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