Underworld: Mugshots from the Roaring Twenties is a stylish art deco-themed exhibition with wide-ranging appeal.
Running at Ipswich’s Workshops Rail Museum until February 24, 2019, this is a must-see event for anyone with a love of photography and photographic technology, social or police history or simply a compelling yarn. The collection comprises 130 photographs taken by NSW police in the 1920s and 30s. Some shed light on a heartbreaking era in Australia’s past and the tough times some faced, others to the unbelievable daring the top crims of the day displayed. It’s a fascinating insight.
The image above features Thomas Maria, left, with Patrick Bevin (alias Robert Barron, William Bates, William Bevin, Patrick Brosnahan, Owen Patrick Brosnan, Patrick ‘Paddy’ Brosnan, Henry Jones, Arthur Wyatt) & Patrick Dangar, circa September 1920 – ‘suspected of being in a place frequented by people with no visible means of support.’
The exhibition, comprising large-scale photography and a film component, is beautifully styled with art deco framing and detailing adding a glam edge. It harks back to an era when Australia was rebuilding after the tragic impact of World War I and dramatic changes were emerging in architecture, technology, entertainment and society.
The classic bentwood chair features in some of the mugshots. These were common in police stations back in the day and they were often included to give police a visual indication of a suspect’s height.
Ethel Violet May Benn was a remarkably athletic thief who had a history of escaping police, even while heavily pregnant, and had been known to shimmy up a drain pipe to get to an open window.
A section is included for visitors to don some 1920s gear for a selfie. And those who want to take that concept further might want to glam up and grab a ticket to the Prohibition Party happening at the museum on Friday, September 21. (There will be alcohol available so this is an 18+ event). Tickets are limited.
George McKee, with a trio of elaborate aliases after his name, was ‘suspected of theft and wife desertion.’
The Workshops Rail Museum, in a significant heritage precinct in North Ipswich, is one of the city’s premier attractions and is running a series of talks and activities to coincide with this exhibition. Full details can be found here.