Monday, June 13, 2011

Old photos of Australian offenders

Click the banner to find some interesting portraits of Australians who had dealings of one kind or another with the police and justice system of New South Wales during the two decades from 1920 to 1940. Apparently the archives contain some 130,000 photographic negatives of individuals convicted during this period. And it would seem that these images are now being made public, whence the presentation of Down Under delinquents in the pages of a flashy French magazine.

This public display of named portraits of offenders surprises me somewhat, although I wouldn't go so far as to say that I disapprove of it. After all, a researcher in family history can't even access dull census data that's as recent as 1920 to 1940. I can't even request a copy of my birth certificate dated 1940, whereas the authorities are quite happy to release this photo of a guy named Jack Keane, a bookmaker who was shot dead at Mascot in 1933.

Some of the individuals (with hats off) appear to be nice smart guys.

Others (with hats on) seem to be less friendly. In any case, I wouldn't feel like buying a used automobile from such fellows.

There's a spooky-looking female murderer, Dorothy Mort.

A frail fellow named Sydney Skukerman has a regard that doesn't inspire confidence, but he was actually a rather minor wrongdoer. He merely stole stuff in warehouses... which, in later years, became a regular unpunished pastime—so I was told, back in the '50s in Sydney—of many waterside workers in Australian port cities.

Others look like nice blokes who wouldn't hurt a fly.

Our Australian delinquents of that epoch were probably no different to those of any other modern nation. On the other hand, I believe we've had good police photographers, and excellent archivists.

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