Many of these pictures are part 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 of the Historic Houses Trust, 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."
I find them truly inspiring and wonder if the men and women shooting these portraits at the time ever thought that almost 100 years on, we would still have copies of them, and now so easily accessible.
I'll also throw in here a video I found on a guy in the USA who is shooting portraits with this technique! I'd love to visit with him and get my portrait taken.
dan carrillo: wet plates from Patrick Richardson Wright on Vimeo.