Staff from Cleveland College of Art and Design (CCAD) are behind a collection of mug shots of historical north east criminals, which were unveiled for the first time at the Hartlepool Art Gallery this week.
Fascinated by the images, Jade Sweeting, print making technician demonstrator at CCAD, joined CCAD illustration lecturer Nik Holmes in creating an exhibition to showcase the never seen before mug shots, which were only recently discovered in the Museum of Hartlepool’s photographic archives in 2015.
Entitled ‘Exposed’, the free exhibition – which runs until March – captures the visible emotion of criminals who came from the across the region but were all arrested in Hartlepool.
The collection features a rogues’ gallery of Edwardian convicts who were found guilty of a range of crimes such as arson, fraud and even stealing potatoes. They were originally captured by Hartlepool Borough Police, a small force which served Hartlepool Headland between 1851 and 1947.
Artist Jade, who is also Creative Director of the Pulled Print Club, used a number of analogue processes, mainly photography and screen print to recycle the existing photos and add her own commentary in order to create a new story.
She said: “Working with the glass negatives has been an intimate and delicate process. Watching the portraits slowly reveal themselves whilst immersed in the developer had a certain voyeuristic quality. With little information on the portraits I have been left questioning the innocence of the people captured. I feel very privileged to be given this opportunity to bring these lost identities back to life and to raise the question of innocence within the minds wider community when viewing these portraits.”
Inspired by Warhol’s “13 Most Wanted Men”, Jade developed and restored the 100-year old negatives in the black and white darkroom at CCAD using a technique called “contact print”.
Nik Holmes created a series of paintings as a response to the photographic archive, in which he explored their place in history and their perceived guilt or innocence with dramatic brush strokes.
He said: “Working with these portraits, forgotten for so long and produced using what are now archaic techniques made me examine my own methods. Rather than the digital medium I have used for years now, I wanted to rediscover more traditional methods of illustrating, such as paint, which don’t allow for ‘back ups’ and ‘copies’.
“I found it refreshing to work in this hands on manner once again after so many years, and felt a real connection with the work and the portraits as a result. This allowed me to reflect upon the transient nature of our existence and the importance of recording and preserving our history.”
CCAD also provided financial support for the exhibition.
Hartlepool Art Gallery is located in Church Square and is open Tuesday to Saturday from 10am to 5pm. For further information, call (01429) 869706 or visit www.hartlepoolartgallery.co.uk