Mug shot of Emma Rolfe (also known as May Mulholland, Sybil White, Jean Harris and Eileen Mulholland), 1 April 1920, Central Police Station Sydney.
Special Photograph no. 126. Emma Rolfe better known as May Mulholland (also as Sybil White, Jean Harris and Eileen Mulholland) had numerous convictions in the period 1919-1920 for theft of jewellery and clothing (all quality items: silk blouses, kimonos and scarves, antique bric a brac etc) from various houses around Kensington and Randwick, and from city shops. She appears as a mature woman in the NSW Criminal Register of 5 December 1934. By that time she is well known for shoplifting valuable furs and silks from city department stores. 'When subjected to interrogation by Police who are not acquainted with her character', the entry notes, 'she strongly protests her innocence, and endeavours to repress her interviewers by stating she will seek the advice of her solicitor.'
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."