Monday, 27 August 2012

A portrait of crime

Police identification file for William Jones | Tyne & Wear Archives and Museums

One of the more amazing qualities of photography is its ability to constantly reinvent itself. A photograph is taken for one purpose but it takes on another role or purpose. That's what a series of photographs found in a junk shop by a member of the public have achieved - a metamorphosis from a working police identity photo to a significant historical document that provides valuable social information.

The collection of photographs feature ID photographs of criminals who worked in the north east of England,  around Newcastle Upon Tyne, during the 1930's. Donated to the Tyne & Wear archives and Museums, the images have been added to Flickr in the hope that more information may be received about the individuals seen in the mugshots. The Flickr archive also features some fascinating portraits of women prisoners brought before the North Shields Police Court between 1902 and 1916.

The portraits certainly make fascinating viewing, with the images show a surprisingly diverse set of people, some of whom wouldn't look too far out of place on a film set. Already some of the background to the lives led by the men featured in the 1930's collection is being revealed. William Jones, seen above, was killed after falling off a roof near the Benwell hotel in Newcastle. He was being pursued by police at the time. Jones stands out from the others due to his age and the conviction for shooting a man in America. Of all the men photographed, he appears to have been the most dangerous.

A charge that is often mentioned in the prisoner M.O is larceny, a crime involving the wrongful acquisition of the personal property of another person,  and one that was abolished in England and Wales back in 2002.

The Flickr archive for the Tyne &  Wear Archives and Museums, featuring a broad range of photographic work including some superb images of ship building, can be found HERE

The collection of 31 mug shots from the 1930's can be found HERE

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