🔗 Images of Australian criminals in the 1920s

A link originally posted on bensinterests.

A post for #WeblogPoMo2024.

On 10th March 2011, I posted this image:

…along with a link to dozens more hosted over on Livejournal (!).

These sorts of photos hit me hard. Photographs of everyday people a hundred years ago are very rare because they were so expensive to produce, very much a luxury. In fact it’s often archives of what might be called ‘undesirables’ that photographs of working class people in isolation can be found, criminals being the obvious example.

A not-so-obvious example: patient records.

For a few years after university I worked on a helpdesk in an archive of historic documents. Family historians would occasionally ask for access to the records of a mental health hospital which had closed down 70 or 80 years earlier. They were remarkable because they were complete casenotes and records of treatment… including a black and white photograph of the patient upon entry. I’d read these stories of people with mild anxiety or post-natal depression or any number of other mental health problems which society didn’t know how to deal with, and I’d see their faces. Often empty. Staring at an unfamiliar device that captured their likeness, unable to know to react. Always twice: a front-facing image, and a portrait one.

I encourage you to look at those photos on Livejournal. The scratched notes on the developed photograph, like ‘THIS MAN REFUSED TO OPEN HIS EYES’. The multiple angles on the same frame. They really are something.