• Tom Marshall

'Bad Characters' Criminals in Colour


Hidden away in the Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums, these police mugshots of villains from the 1930s are a unique insight into British criminal history. Most of the men pictured are listed as labourers, hawkers and miners, suggesting they were all from the poorest corners of society.

The photos appear to come from a police identification book, and evidence suggests that it comes from the Newcastle Upon Tyne area of England. The photos, courtesy of the TWAM Flickr page were found in a junk shop by a member of the public and were donated to the museum.

The reason I colourise photos is to bring the faces to life and to try and connect more easily with the subjects. As is often the case, the eyes are the first thing that appear when the image is colourised and these photos were no different. I believe that by connecting with the images in this way, we're able to better imagine what was on the minds of these men. Were they justified to be called 'bad characters' as one man John Dodgson is described, or with the benefit of modern eyes, can these men be seen as victims of their circumstances, living in one of the poorest areas of the country, during the worst economic times of the twentieth century?

Following the Wall Street Crash of 1929, unemployment in Britain rose to 2.5 million, hitting the hitting the coal, iron, steel and shipbuilding industries the hardest, with areas such as Tyne & Wear feeling the worst of it. The Depression must have had an effect on those at the bottom of the pile, and I wonder how much this had to play in the choices of these men.

However, some such as James Lowrie (above) seem to have a wry smile, suggesting they are career criminals and no stranger to the police mugshot. One of the few with an alias, the 'Sunderland Kid' was noted for having a tattoo, a scar, and a history of larceny, robbery and pickpocketing.

The notes accompanying each photo are fascinating to read, and as a rare bonus for colourising, I was given the eye and hair colour as a guideline, so I can rest in the knowledge that I've got the details as spot on as possible! The unique nature of the images has also allowed me to keep one image in the original black and white, showing almost a 'before and after' to highlight the difference between the original image and the colourised one.

The original images © Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums

Colourised sections © Tom Marshall (PhotograFix) 2016

For more of my colourised photos, please follow PhotograFix on Facebook and Twitter.

The original images © Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums

Colourised sections © Tom Marshall (PhotograFix) 2016

For more of my colourised photos, please follow PhotograFix on Facebook and Twitter.

#tyne #newcastle #1930s #criminals #burglary #robbers #larsony #character #Past #BlackWhite #Colour

PhotograFix is the trading name of Tom Marshall B.A (Hons)

© All content (unless otherwise specified) Tom Marshall (PhotograFix) 2020

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