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Author: Natasha Cantwell
Digital Communications & Public Programming Officer
The Bound Circulated Photographs and Criminal Offences of Convicted Persons are a collection of records from 1924 to 1954 detailing convicted persons, their distinguishing features and offences in Victoria. Before the advent of criminal databases, these hefty albums were widely circulated around police forces across all the states, to be used as reference material. Now in the custody of Public Record Office Victoria, the volumes from 1941 to 1942 are available for the public to view for the first time.
The police photographer of the time probably didn't realise it, but 77 years on, these beautiful black and white portraits would provide us with a fascinating insight into Victorians and their sense of style, from an often over-looked perspective. A world away from Melbourne Cup snapshots, fashion editorials, or wartime documentation, the images held within the criminal records provide a fascinating insight into the everyday clothing you would have encountered on Melbourne's streets.
In the early forties it didn’t take much to end up in the pages of the leather-bound volumes labelled “Victorian Photos.” You could earn your place simply by swearing in public! From working class people just trying to get by, through to hardened criminals, these books showcase the fashion trends of the era. Hats feature prominently, almost everyone has slicked back hair and no one is without a coat – no matter what time of year! However, far from being uniform in their style, you’ll find short preppy sports coats and long military-influenced trench coats, stripy ties and spotted scarves, all expressing their wearer’s individuality.
Under Section 9 of the Public Records Act 1973 files of a personal or private nature are closed from between 75 to 99 years to prevent the violation of personal privacy. On the 1st of January 2018, another year of files was opened to the public for the first time. The above images are included in this year’s openings and can be found in the Bound Circulated Photographs and Criminal Offences of Convicted Persons, volume 45 and volume 46.