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Criminal Types Words and Images by Lyn Hagan


This work is the result of a year long series of embroidered pieces in which I dealt with historical photos of convicts and the dead. I came across a collection by Paul Frecker of post mortem photography and from that led to a resource of images from the American Wild West. I began to sketch these and then to embroider them. Post mortem photography was a Victorian and early American tradition that were taken after the death of a loved one, typically a child, and were a means of capturing the image of the person in one last futile gesture that denies their loss whilst at the same time admitting it totally. After working on fairly intimate portraits of these images, and simultaneously drawing the images of funerals in the frontiers, it was a natural progression to look at other archives and I came across the archive of Thomas Nevins photographs of Tasmanian criminals. I embroidered these without knowing the crime of those I depicted and found through later research that one of the criminals crimes was vagrancy, the other was rape. I could not tell by their faces what crime they had committed and I remembered the Victorian tradition of trying to identify criminal types by facial features. I have also made images based upon prison tattoos, in which we get to see how convicts represent themselves.


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