Mug shot of ‘Ah Num’ and ‘Ah Tom’, ca 1930, Central Police Station, Sydney. NSW Police Forensic Photography Archive, Justice and Police Museum, Sydney Living Museums.
Special Photograph no. D158/D159. The ‘D’ prefix on the serial number indicates that the photograph was taken on behalf of the Drug Bureau, which in the late 1920s consisted of two men, Detectives Wickham and Thompson. ‘Ah Num’ and ‘Ah Tom’, which may be approximate renderings of these men’s names, do not turn up in the records of the time, and the expectation that they were to be released may account for their obviously elevated mood.
This picture is one of a series of around 2500 “special photographs” taken by New South Wales Police Department photographers between 1910 and 1960. 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.”