T.J. Nevin's prisoner mugshots, Mitchell Library NSW

THOMAS NEVIN'S ELEVEN

The Mitchell Library at the State Library of NSW has catalogued eleven prisoner photographs so far which were taken by Thomas Nevin and his younger brother Jack Nevin at the Hobart Gaol between 1875 and 1884.

All of these men were habitual offenders with long criminal records who spent as much if not more time in gaol as out on assignment to an employer. These are their mugshots, and typical of the 3500 or so taken over the decade by Thomas Nevin, with the assistance of his brother Constable John Nevin. The two brothers were required by the Prisons Department and Municipal Police Office to photograph men (but not women) who were arrested, with a "booking photograph". They were also required to photograph those who were arraigned at the Hobart Supreme Court, incarcerated at the Hobart Gaol, or discharged from the Town Hall Municipal Office. And in some instances, they photographed dead men walking, those destined to be hanged.

The exact dates on which these men were photographed, some at least twice, can be adduced from their police records published in the weekly police gazettes, called Tasmania Reports of Crime Information for Police 1865-1880( Government Printer, James Barnard), held at the Archives Office of Tasmania. The death warrants which accompany two of these vignetted cartes (Sutherland and Stock) are held at the Mitchell Library, bound in a volume called Death Warrants V.D.L (Tasmania, Supreme Court C203).

The following photographs of Nevin's mugshots for these eleven prisoners provide information about -

  • the pose and framing techniques used by Thomas Nevin in the mid 1870s, reflective of conventional commercial portraiture
  • the transition period between the brothers' commercial portraiture and the regulated official prison photograph, typically a full frontal capture, dating from late 1870s - 1880s
  • the archival inscriptions and numbering which date from the library's accession of the collection, bequested by David Scott Mitchell in 1907
  • the library's contemporary methods of storing, pasting, mounting and cataloguing this collection
  • etc etc -i.e. whatever the punctum may be for the viewer
All photography copyright © KLW NFC 2009 ARR.

Tasmanian prisoner mugshots by Nevin 1870s

Tasmanian prisoner mugshots by Nevin 1870s

Tasmanian prisoner mugshots by Nevin 1870s

Mounted

Tasmanian prisoner mugshots by Nevin 1870s

Unmounted

Tasmanian prisoner mugshots by Nevin 1870s

Tasmanian prisoner mugshots by Nevin 1870s

Some are stamped verso with Nevin's Royal Arms government stamp(two above), some have handwritten details of the crime and date of arraignment in different hands

Tasmanian prisoner mugshots by Nevin 1870s

Tasmanian prisoner mugshots by Nevin 1870s

Two of the same man, Francis Shearin (police records show spelling variations and aliases): on left is the booking photograph 1877, on right the sentencing shot, 8 years for murder, taken in July 1878.

Shearin sentenced July 1878

Shearin's sentence: Police record in Tasmania Reports of Crime 2nd August 1878

Tasmanian prisoner mugshots by Nevin 1870s

Tasmanian prisoner mugshots by Nevin 1870s

Full frontal, eyes up.

DEATH WARRANTS

Tasmanian prisoner mugshots by Nevin 1870s-80s

Booking shot of Henry Stock, executed 1884

Tasmanian prisoner mugshots by Nevin 1870s-80s

Sutherland, full frontal shot, hand-tinted, photographed in the week before his death by hanging, May-June 1883.

Tasmanian prisoner mugshots by Nevin 1870s-80s

Tasmanian prisoner mugshots by Nevin 1870s-80s

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PLEASE NOTE

Below each image held at the National Library of Australia is their catalogue batch edit which gives the false impression that all these "convict portraits" were taken because these men were transported convicts per se (i.e before cessation in 1853), and that they might have been photographed as a one-off amateur portfolio by a prison official at the Port Arthur prison in 1874, which they were not. Any reference to the Port Arthur prison official A. H. Boyd on the NLA catalogue records is an error, a PARASITIC ATTRIBUTION with no basis in fact. The men in these images were photographed in the 1870s-1880s because they were repeatedly sentenced as habitual offenders whose mugshots were taken on arrest, trial, arraignment, incarceration and/or discharge by government contractor, police and prisons photographer T. J. Nevin at the Supreme Court and adjoining Hobart Gaol with his brother Constable John Nevin, and at the Municipal Police Office, Hobart Town Hall when appearing at The Mayor's Court. The Nevin brothers photographed more than 2000 prisoners, the bulk now lost or destroyed. These extant mugshots were the random estrays salvaged - and reproduced in many instances- for sale at Beattie's local convictaria museum in Hobart and at interstate exhibitions associated with the fake convict ship Success in the early 1900s. The mugshots were selected on the basis of the prisoner's notoriety from the Supreme Court trial registers (Rough Calendar), the Habitual Criminals Registers (Gaol Photo Books), warrant forms, and police gazettes records of the 1870s-1880s. The earliest taken on government contract by T. J. Nevin date from 1872. The police records sourced here are from the weekly police gazettes which were called (until 1884) Tasmania Reports of Crime Information for Police 1871-1885. J. Barnard, Gov't Printer.