|AFTER 200 YEARS
A PHOTOGRAPHIC ESSAY ON THE ABORIGINALS
CURATED BY PENNY TAYLOR, RICHARD ANDRE, GEORGE CHALOUPKA, SANDY EDWARDS, ALANA HARRIS, ADRIAN HART, CAROLYN LEVENS,
ROBERT MC FARLANE - CATHY FISHER, MAUREEN MACKENZIE-PETER MACKENZIE, RICKIE MAYNARD, GERRY ORKIN, MAX PAM,
MICHAEL RILEY, JON RHODES, POLLY SUMNER, EMANUEL ANGELICAS
AN EXHIBITION PROPOSED MONTPELLIER PHOTOVISIONS
20/2 - 14/3 1998
GALLERY GILLES CARON
FRENCH INSTITUTE OF THESSALONIKI
STRATOU AV 2Α / 855-303
MO - SΑ 11.00-2.00, 18.00-21.00
In some Aboriginal communities restrictions apply on the naming or display of photographs of
deceased persons. Extreme care has been taken throughout this publication to ensure that such
restrictions are not cotravened. Since publication however, some people named or depicted in this
book may have died. Those taking this book to Aboriginal communities particularly in the Northern
Territory and northwest Australia, should be aware of mortuary restrictions which may apply and
exercise caution when diplaying the contents of this book. The communities to which this particularly
applies are Bagot, Fizroy Crossing, Malgawo, Yaruman, Yerdumu and surrounding areas.
In particular people from Arnhem Land or those visiting should be aware that the Maigawo chapter
will cause distress to all who know the community, because of recent tragic events there. The book
was in press at that time and the community has suggested that the chapter remain as a tribute to the
memory of those who passed away.
The text that follows is an excerpt from Penny Taylor's essay in the book by the same title.
After 200 years was concelved as a major Bicentennial project to document through photographs and
texts the diversity of Aboriginal and Islander life in Australia in the late 1980s. To achieve this, over
20 Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal photographers worked with communities all over Australia for
periods of up to two months. The result is a vast archive of over 50,000 documented photographs
which is lodged with the Australian institute of Aboriginal Studies in Carberra. This volume is a
distillation of that collection which aims to show a range of Aboriginal and Islander life today.
The first white settlers arrived in Australia 200 years ago beggining a process that threatened to
extinguish Aboriginal life on this continent. Most Aborigines find no reason to celebrate 1988; rather
the Bicentenary is a symbol of their survival of 200 years of legislated oppression. Only during the
1960s did all Aboriginal people achieve full citizenship, and for most this has been at best a second-
class citizenship as they struggle against entrenched racist attitudes and stereotypes.
The complicity of photographic image-making over the last 100 years in the creation and perpetuation
of these attitudes and stereotypes was a critical point of departure for this Project. The cultural blas of
the photographic perpective has reinforced the two major mythologies of Aboriginal Australia; that of
the noble savage of the one hand, living a "traditional", pre-contact pattern of life; on the other, the
passive, broken "victim", living on the fringes of non-Aboriginal society. This Project has attempted
to redirect the imagery of Aboriginal Australia in two main ways - both of which have been
The principal aim was to represent the diversity of Aboriginal Australia, to move into everyday worlds
of Aboriginal work, play, home and neighbourhood. These are the areas excluded from a
photographic obsession which has focused on the exotic, the "authentic" and the "traditional". This
approach demanded that the Project address the actual distribution of people throughout the country to
counter the widely held assumption that "real" Aborigines live exclusively in remote Australia.
The second, more problematic, aim was to engage maximum involvement of Aboriginal people in
making a statement about their lifestyle, in their own terms. There is a growing literature on how
photographs mislead, how they are fitted into cultural and political agendas to reinforce dominant
power structures, and how people read photographs differently, all of which was pertinent to this
Project. If Aboriginal involvement was to be more than a token gesture, a methodology was required
which would subvert both the cultural bias of the photographic perspective and the authoritarianism of
the camera lens which epitomises the subject-object dichotomy of white-black relations.
We relied on a combination of recent advances in theories of representation and photodocumentary
ethics and on certain understandings of the interests of the participants themselves. The approach we
developed aimed for a genre of collaborative documentary photography in which the participants
could control and direct the work of the photographer, the selection of images and the texts that that
would accompany them. It was a method which attempted to develop a long term model of
cooperation between an institution and its Aboriginal constituents, between an archive and the people
whose images would fill it, between photographers and their subjects, between different classes of
people, between strangers and friends.
We expect these photographs to be (and to show themselves to be) the product of collaboration, but
also of struggle, tension, anxiety and self-doubt as the people on both sides of the camera sought to
define a better way of making pictures.