The forensic photography archive within the Justice & Police Museum was originally created by the New South Wales Police between 1912 and 1964. The archive contains an estimated 130,000 negatives and may be the biggest police photography collection of its type in the southern hemisphere. The images stem from every imaginable variety of law breaking across six decades of the 20th century. They include mug shots, accident scenes, crashes, murders, fires, forgeries and fingerprints, as well as Sydney streetscapes and domestic spaces.
The archive first became widely known as a result of the book City of shadows by Peter Doyle and Caleb Williams (2005), now in its fourth imprint. In 2006 the book won a National Trust/Energy Australia Heritage Award and the Museums Australia Publication Design Award in the book category. Peter Doyle’s follow-up book, Crooks like us (2009), won the Best Designed Specialist Illustrated Book category at the 2010 Australian Publishers Association Awards. Other publications which feature photographs from the archive include Femme fatale (2008) and The summer exercises (2008), an illustrated novel by Ross Gibson containing about 200 images.
Major exhibitions featuring the archive have traveled widely. These include Crime Scene (1999) and more recently Femme Fatale (2009), which is currently touring to the Australian Capital Teritory, Western Australia, Victoria, Tasmania and regional New South Wales. Ongoing discoveries from the archive are regularly displayed within a dedicated museum space known as the Archive Gallery. So far the Forensic Archive has presented three photography displays: Exposure (2009), Crooks (2009), and Walter Tuchin: police photographer, which has recently opened.
We continue to explore this fascinating archive, attaching stories to events, histories to scenes, and motives to seemingly inexplicable behaviours. This blog is your chance to hear from those of us who are directly involved in these projects. Thoughts and finds will be presented, challenges confided, research agendas explained, and some of the photographs that inspire, haunt and astonish us will be revealed!
Images from the Justice & Police Museum forensic crime photography collection may contain images of deceased persons. The Historic Houses Trust has published these images in good faith with no intention to cause distress or embarrassment to anyone.
Sydney Living Museums encourages the reproduction of images of its properties and collections; however, to maintain the integrity of the reproductions, publishers are required to comply with certain terms and conditions.
Read more and obtain application forms.
View more images from the collection.