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Mug shot of Joseph Messenger taken 15 February 1922, Central cells.
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Mug shot of Joseph Messenger 15 February 1922, Central police Station, Sydney.
New South Wales. Police Dept.
February 1922
Glass plate negative:
Emulsion side:
Special Photograph no. 745. Joseph Messenger and Valerie Lowe were arrested in 1921 for breaking into an army warehouse and stealing boots and overcoats to the value of 29 pounds 3 shillings. The following year, when this photograph was taken, they were charged with breaking and entering a dwelling. Those charges were eventually dropped but they were arrested again later that year for stealing a saddle and bridle from Rosebery Racecourse. As an adult Messenger was active in inner-Sydney underworld through the 1920s, and he appears in the NSW Criminal Register (16 July 1930 entry no 171) as a seasoned criminal and gang affiliate. The description of his modus operandi includes, 'Violently [resists] arrest ... frequents wine saloons, billiard rooms, and racecourses ... consorts with prostitutes.' This photograph shows Messenger at age 18. See also 'Mug shot of Valerie Lowe'.
This picture is one of a series of around 2500 "special photographs" taken by New South Wales Police Department photographers between 1910 and 1930. These "special photographs" were mostly taken in the cells at the Central Police Station, Sydney and are, as curator Peter Doyle explains, of "men and women recently plucked from the street, often still animated by the dramas surrounding their apprehension". Doyle suggests that, compared with the subjects of prison mug shots, "the subjects of the Special Photographs seem to have been allowed - perhaps invited - to position and compose themselves for the camera as they liked. Their photographic identity thus seems constructed out of a potent alchemy of inborn disposition, personal history, learned habits and idiosyncrasies, chosen personal style (haircut, clothing, accessories) and physical characteristics."
Published in:
Peter Doyle with Caleb Williams City of shadows: Sydney police photographs 1912-1948 Historic Houses Trust, 2005, pp.38, 229. Peter Doyle Crooks like us Historic Houses Trust of NSW, 2009, p 162.
Exhibited in:
City of Shadows at the Justice & Police Museum, Sydney, November 2005-January 2007.
Justice & Police Museum ; 148
Justice & Police Museum
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