Mug shot of B. Smith, Gertrude Thompson and Vera McDonald, Central Police Station, Sydney, 25 January 1928.
Special Photograph no. 1608. This photograph was apparently taken in the aftermath of a raid led by CIB Chief Bill Mackay - later to be Commissioner of Police - on a house at 74 Riley Street, 'lower Darlinghurst'. Numerous charges were heard against the 15 men and women arrested. Lessee Joe Bezzina was charged with 'being the keeper of a house frequented by reputed thieves', and some of the others were charged with assault, and with 'being found in a house frequented by reputed thieves'. The prosecution cast the raid in heroic terms - the Chief of the CIB, desperately outnumbered, had struggled hand to hand in 'a sweltering melee in one of the most notorious thieves' kitchens in Sydney'. The defence, on the other hand, described 'a quiet party, a few drinks, some singing ... violently interrupted by a squad of hostile, brawling police' (Truth, 29 January 1928). The gallery was packed with friends of the accused, who loudly jeered the prosecution and police witnesses. See also "Mug shot of C Smith, Joseph Bezzina, William J Williamson, Aiden Feutrill, George Hodder, William Thorson", in this collection.
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."