Behind the scenes: How to read a ‘special’

Around the world, police forces followed established conventions when taking mugshots. But Sydney police in the 1920s did things differently.

Gaol photo of Arthur Astill

Captured: Portraits of Crime, Arthur Astill

Arthur Astill, a 16 year old labourer from Orange in central west NSW, was photographed at Dubbo Gaol on 24 January 1893 while awaiting trial for murder

Dual mugshot in black and white; man seated and then man standing, with hat on.

The Black Hand in Sydney

Restrictions on the sale of alcohol offered tantalising opportunities for organised crime groups around the world. A Mafia-style organisation known as the Camorra began to make inroads into Australia during the 1920s

Gaol photo of Sarah Clifford

Captured: Portraits of Crime 1870-1930, Sarah Clifford

Sarah Clifford, born in Jamaica c.1833, was a former convict and known pickpocket in both Tasmania and NSW. She was photographed numerous times at Darlinghurst and Biloela gaols between 1872 and 1910


The Roaring Twenties

The 1920s heralded the brave new world that emerged from the devastation of World War I

Stanley James Hay, Special Photograph number 167, c 1920, Central Police Station, Sydney

Fallen soldiers

After the universal upheaval of World War I, many soldiers found it difficult to take up their former occupations and adjust to civilian life

Black and white image of man with thick curly hair. The words


From the beginning, young men and fast cars were a volatile mix

Black and white image of a man in a suit. The words


The lure of easy money from the illicit alcohol, drug and gambling trades encouraged the formation of new crime gangs

Gaol photo of Pier McDhoon

Captured: Portraits of Crime 1870-1930, Pier McDhoon

Pier McDhoon, born in New Caledonia or India c. 1872, was convicted of multiple horse stealing offences between 1887 and 1913, and was photographed on at least six occasions at Darlinghurst and Parramatta gaols