Underworld: Mugshots from the Roaring Twenties

Saturday 13 August 2022 to Sunday 30 October 2022 (DAILY event)

Overview

Welcome to the dark side of the Roaring Twenties. Descend into Sydney’s seedy underworld, where the only rules were never squeal to the police and always, always shoot first. Criminals thrived…

Welcome to the dark side of the Roaring Twenties. Descend into Sydney’s seedy underworld, where the only rules were never squeal to the police and always, always shoot first.

Criminals thrived during the turbulent 1920s when rapid societal change led to the opening of new illicit markets for entrepreneurial felons. Sydney’s police photographers captured the zeitgeist of the era in these unexpectedly candid mugshots of cocaine sellers and addicts, sly-grog purveyors and small-time criminals. Bosses, bruisers, plotters and petty crims are captured by the camera as they stare down the lens and into history.

Over 100 captivating images of suspects taken by NSW Police between 1920 and 1930, reproduced from the original glass negatives, will be on display in the exhibition. Known to police as ‘special’ photographs, they are raw and intriguing portraits of people in custody, unlike any found elsewhere in the world.

Underworld: Mugshots from the Roaring Twenties is a travelling exhibition from Sydney Living Museums.

IMAGE CREDIT: Arthur Caddy, 6 March 1929. NSW Police Forensic Photography Archive, Sydney Living Museums.

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