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City of Shadows: Sydney Police Photographs…

City of Shadows: Sydney Police Photographs 1912-1948

by Peter Doyle

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* 30/12/2010 as an aside, anyone catch the new tv advertisement for "Underbelly" on Channel 9 tonight. The photograph on the cover of this book was spliced in amongst scenes from the new upcoming series. A fourth Underbelly series to screen in 2011 promises to lift the lid on the birth of organised crime in Australia.

Based in Sydney in the roaring 1920s, Underbelly Razor tells the story of the bloody battle between "vice queens" Tilly Devine and her rival Kate Leigh.
The photographs in this book were mainly taken in the cells at Darlinghurst Police Station in Forbes Street. (see it here).
(now it's a community health centre - am glad they didn't pull it down it's listed as an historic building). It's opposite the National Art School which was once Sydney's original goal.

The images are beautiful in an austere sort of way and depict the people of the times in their own clothing. They were asked to pose however they liked apparently unlike modern day police photographs so you can sense the real character of the person.

This is on my wish list because I love photography, but also have a weird bittersweet association with the Darlinghust Police Station. No not that...My first ever dog was a Police Dog from Darlinghurst Police Station. Susie - a doberman but she had a tendency to wander and reluctantly they had to retire her. Somehow my father heard about it and took me to meet her - I was 7 or 8 and remember walking though the building past some of the cells to get to the kennels out the back. The cells in my memory looked like the cells in the photographs in this book. Later I was to go to the National Art School (the old goal across the road) and recall the inside of the station with some fondness. Both the station and Goal buildings particularly are eerie, and supposedly haunted - they did hang people there. Something just leaks out of the stonework & you shiver though I never saw any ghosts while there. The bitter part is later I applied for the job of police photographer at the same station and I was rejected because I was female. Equal rights wasn't in force then - I'd read the Female Eunuch by Greer but I was ahead of my times.. Still I want the book.
  velvetink | Mar 31, 2013 |
This book comprises a small but careful sample from a vast collection of forensic photographs, taken in Sydney, Australia between 1912 and 1960. The book has several text essays complementing this fine collection of approximately 200 black and white photographs. The photos provide an insight to the Sydney scene from the twenties, through the depression and Second World War to the immediate post-war era. While the emphasis was on the presentation of evidence, these images provide a great social document, ranging from the hard men staring back at the police camera lens to the bereft surroundings of desperate victims. The original photographers have chosen well what they cared to record, apparently placing evidence in context. Pictures of on-lookers communicate the timbre of the time as much as photos of victims, accidents, suspects and scenes of crime. The photos have been reproduced from original negatives, and the quality is a testament to the original processing and modern curatorial work. Not an enjoyable book, by virture of the subject matter, but a very fine social document. Highly recommended. ( )
  dfoott | Dec 18, 2009 |
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Casts a fascinating light on the shadowy underworld of Sydney in the years between the two world wars. The uncompromising truthfulness of the photos, and the diligence, humility and artfulness used in their manufacture gives them a paradoxically tonic quality. There are horrors here, but delights too.… (more)

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