Square crop of man's head and shoulders.
Rouse Hill House contains a number of objects that reveal the close relationships between the families associated with the house and the Pearce family, particularly Norman Pearce and his fiancée, Kathleen Rouse.
Dual mugshot in black and white; man seated and then man standing, with hat on. Photographer's bag on table behind man.
The images captured on the glass-plate negatives were intended to be printed as closely cropped identification mugshots showing the suspect’s face and build. Knowing this, the police photographer often did not bother to move his bag and occasionally his hat out of the frame. These little personal relics of the man behind the camera make many cameos in the Specials.
Cropped image of bust.
William John MacKay (1885–1948), known as Bill, was a Scottish-born police officer who played a major role in policing Sydney’s underworld during the 1920s. Affectionately known as ‘Big Bill’, he was 6 feet (183 centimetres) tall and weighed almost 100 kilograms. He was not afraid of a fight, and was said to have used his large fists to great effect during violent skirmishes with criminals. He joined the New South Wales Police in 1910, and after a period on the beat and then as a detective he became the Commissioner of Police in 1935.
Dual mugshot in black and white; man seated and then man standing, with hat on.
Around the world, police forces followed established conventions when taking mugshots. But Sydney police in the 1920s did things differently. Suspects hold handbags, papers, cigarettes and conversations. This deviation from protocol creates images suffused with the suspect’s personality, not unlike a commissioned studio portrait – if you ignore the backdrop of cell doors.
Black and white mugshot of one-legged man standing with crutches and wearing a hat.
After the universal upheaval of World War I, many soldiers found it difficult to take up their former occupations and adjust to civilian life. To make ends meet, some ex-soldiers turned to crime, while career criminals simply went back to their old ways. Ex-servicemen received preferential treatment in the community as an acknowledgment of their service and sacrifice, and they were often shown leniency by police and the courts. Devious criminals, many of whom had not enlisted, took advantage of public goodwill with scams involving stolen medals and false tales of heroism.
Dual black and white mugshot, man standing with hat on (left) and seated (right).
Police used Specials photographs in different ways. They could show the prints to witnesses in an attempt to identify a perpetrator. Beat cops and detectives used the prints to familiarise themselves with the faces of people they might encounter in their work. From time to time, police also provided the photographs to press: direct reproductions of the images and sketches based on them appear in newspapers during the 1920s.  
Closeup of face.
George B Howard was a prominent police photographer in Sydney during the 1920s, when the use of photography was emerging strongly as an aid to identification and the investigation of crime. Sydney’s ‘Camera Cop’1 made a significant contribution to police photography, but we still know little about the man behind the lens.

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