In Focus: How The Specials Inspired Photographer Luke Stambouliah

Razorhurst, Gunhurst, Bottlehurst, Dopehurst – it used to be Darlinghurst, one of the finest quarters of a rich and beautiful city; today it is a plague spot where the spawn of the gutter grow and fatten on official apathy. By day it shelters – in its alleys, in its dens – the underworld people. At night it looses them to prey on prosperity, decency and virtue, and to fight one another for the division of the spoils.

This newspaper demands that Razorhurst be swept off the map, and the Darlinghurst we knew in better days be restored. It demands new laws, and new strength for their enforcement. And it points, for convincing and horrifying evidence, to the crimes already to Razorhurst’s discredit. Recall the human beasts that, lurking cheek by jowl with decent people, live with no aim, purpose or occupation but crime – bottle men, dope pedlars, razor slashers, sneak thieves, confidence men, women of ill repute, pickpockets, burglars, spielers, gunmen and every brand of race course parasite.

Razorhurst grows more and more undesirable as a place of residence for the peaceful and industrious. Unceasingly it attracts to its cesspool every form of life that is vile.

Truth, September 1928

As a young art student Luke Stambouliah created a stunning photographic series, Persons of interest, based on the Special photographs.

Watch his story of discovering and interpreting these photographs and how this process has subsequently influenced his career as an international photographer in film and television.

Saskia Burmeister (alias Greta), 12 February 1926, Parramatta Police Station from the series Persons of Interest

Saskia Burmeister (alias Greta), 12 February 1926, Parramatta Police Station from the series Persons of Interest. 

Photograph courtesy and © Luke Stambouliah, 2010

About the author

Colour photograph head and shoulders portrait of woman with long brown hair and glasses

Veronica Kooyman

Former Assistant Curator

Veronica has worked in museums since 2009 and has been fortunate to work at the Australian National Maritime Museum in Darling Harbour and the National Motor Museum in the Adelaide Hills where she had far too much fun riding around in vintage cars. Between 2014 and 2018 Veronica worked as part of the exhibitions team, learning and sharing new and fascinating stories from her home city.