125 years of photographic services within the Queensland Police Service

The scientific use of photography has come a long way in the 125 years since it became apart of the Queensland Police Service.

Police archives as far back as 1884 praised the photographic process as a new technology which would have great advantage in the future identification and apprehension of criminals.

In late 1892 Acting Sergeant John Raphael Thompson was officially appointed as the first QPS police photographer.

At the time of his appointment Thompson was performing clerical duties at the Brisbane CIB which forced him to combine both roles, earning him an extra £10.

Thompson was assigned to record mugshots of convicted persons at the Brisbane and Saint Helena Gaols.

John Raphael Thompson

As Queensland ran its own affairs until Federation in 1901, Thompson also took photographs for the Immigration Department. Thompson would also take photographs of police trainees and portraits and group shots for departmental records.

In 1905, Thomson established the QPS’s first darkroom and studio in converted horse stables behind the CIB Building formally located in Queen’s Park.

The former CIB Station located in Queen’s Park

During this period Thomson would have used a bulky 4×5 camera on a heavy tripod which would have been loaded with glass negative plates.

In readiness for his capturing photographs he would mix his own chemistry and apply it to those glass plates to create the negative emulsion.

Back then travel was not as simple as it is now and Thompson would have been required to travel by horse, buggy and then boat to Saint Helena which would have taken at best a day or two depending on the weather.

He would then capture the images and return to his darkroom in Queens Park and hand develop the glass plates before proceeding to chemically develop the black and white photographs.

The first published police photographs appeared in the Police Gazette photo supplement No. 39 of 1897 of one “Missing” and one “Wanted person.”

The legacy of Sergeant Thompson has permeated throughout the members with the QPS Photographic Section as strong culture to embrace best practices and technological progression.

After 125 years the skills profile required of a QPS police photographer have evolved significantly from understanding the fundamentals of photography and combining  this knowledge with the emergence of new technologies.

In 2017 Inspector Adrian Freeman is the current Inspector of the the Photographic Section.

Inspector Freeman has over 30 years in Forensic Services and has the responsibility of not only managing fundamental forensic photographic and video services but also supplying specialist forensic imaging services.

Inspector Adrian Freeman, Photographic and Electronic Recording Sections

These services include Remote Pilot Aircraft Services (RPA) for aerial photography and mapping, Interactive Forensic Imaging Services and three dimensional scanning mapping and modelling that provides immersive and augmented experiences for investigators and the courts.

Today the skill profile of a police photographer is very dynamic. From attaining extensive knowledge in forensic applications and photographic and video fundamentals to being trained as a Remote Pilot Aircraft pilot and observer.

From scanner recorders to mapping specialists to modelling builders and face composite producers to evidentiary image comporators to crime scene photography trainers the  job description for members of the photographic section has certainly changed.

The QPS has indeed overseen a very strong evolution in the processes of police photography since the days of Sergeant Thompson in the late nineteenth century as the photographic section has embedded itself as a core resource to record and process forensic images more comprehensively and accurately.

To celebrate the 125th anniversary of the photographic section, QPS Media in conjunction with the Photographic Section will be producing a blog series to celebrate the achievements and evolution of the section.

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